Senate Republicans dashed environmentalists" hopes last week, killing legislation that would have cut greenhouse gas emissions. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, pulled the ambitious and bipartisan Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill, which called for cutting carbon emissions some 71 percent by 2050, after backers couldn"t even muster enough votes for the majority required to overcome a GOP filibuster on the issue. Just when it seemed like climate change had become a top priority, the economic naysayers prevailed, saying the proposed changes would simply cost taxpayers too much.
"It’s a huge tax increase," Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell told reporters. He added that the carbon emissions trading system proposed in the bill would produce "the largest restructuring of the American economy since the New Deal." He also called for the filibuster, requiring all 492 pages of the bill be read aloud into the record, an almost unprecedented move which ended up taking more than eight hours.
The legislation"s backers disputed McConnell"s claims. "There is no tax increase," said Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, a chief sponsor of the bill, adding that the emissions trading system would actually provide tax relief to help people cover already high energy costs. Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry accused Republicans of "trickery and gimmicks and parliamentary games" while Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman bemoaned the bill"s "unnatural ending." These Democrats and others will no doubt redouble their efforts to get meaningful legislation on the books to fight global warming, but not until next year, with a new President at the helm.