Senate committee deadlock means Clear Skies unlikely to pass this year

After a deadlocked 9-9 vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Bush administration’s long-sought Clear Skies legislation appears unlikely to pass — at least this year. The fourth time was not the charm for committee chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who had scheduled and then delayed the vote three times previously as he twisted arms in search of a deal. Stung by the defeat, Inhofe, to the surprise of approximately no one, blamed the failure on “environmental extremists” and “far-left political fundraising.” The actual source of the defeat was a group of seven Democrats, along with independent James Jeffords (Vt.) and moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee (R.I.). They had been under intense pressure to bend, but after their request for additional information from the U.S. EPA last week was met with silence, they seemed resolved to stick together. The Bush administration is now expected to try to implement some of Clear Skies’ provisions as regulatory rules, and possibly attach others as riders to the pending energy bill. The ultimate fate of Clear Skies itself is still up in the, um, air.