As attention focused on the climate and energy bill unveiled by key House Democrats on Tuesday, the Senate quietly held a couple of votes that reveal a great deal about where that chamber stands on upcoming legislation.
The first was a measure sponsored by Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). It inserts language into the budget resolution requiring that legislation “relating to clean energy technologies” — i.e., a climate and energy bill — not “increase the overall burden on consumers.” The vote was seen, by Politico anyway, as a referendum on support for cap-and-trade, which will likely need 60 votes to overcome a Republican veto threat.
It passed by a 54-43 roll call vote, with more Democratic support than past efforts but still well short of the 60-vote threshold.
The vote fell largely along party lines; several Republicans who have supported climate action in the past voted against it, including John McCain (Ariz.) and the Maine moderates, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Democrats Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.) also voted against the measure.
Boxer’s amendment was meant in part to curb the effect of another measure from John Thune (R-S.D.). Thune’s amendment modified the portion of the budget that called for a deficit-neutral reserve fund for climate change legislation, requiring that the legislation not increase electricity or gasoline prices. The measure, approved after Boxer’s, passed by a vote of 89-8 — despite the fact that carbon policy is designed to raise the price on carbon-intensive fuels.
Both votes were more political posturing than anything else, and in the end they won’t have much bearing on what a cap-and-trade plan in the Senate looks like. But they do give a sense of where Senators stand as House action heats up.