6 April 2009

Obama climate plans face long route for passage

A U.S. Senate vote this week rejected an effort to put climate-change legislation on a fast track, making it harder for Congress to put limits on greenhouse gas emissions this year. Democratic leaders and the Obama administration had floated the idea of using the federal budget to move cap-and-trade legislation through Congress.

Making the plan part of the budget would enable it to pass with a simple majority.

But the Senate on Wednesday voted 67-to-31 in favor of a measure blocking lawmakers from attaching a cap-and-trade bill to the federal budget. Democrats now will need 60 votes in the Senate to end a potential filibuster of any bill to create a system limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring industry to buy permits to release gasses blamed for global warming.

John McMackin, a director of a glass container company and part of a lobby for energy-intensive firms, said this vote shows there are still a large number of moderate Democrats from heavy manufacturing states that are skeptical of climate change legislation.

"Until they are satisfied that their industrial base can be protected, they are not going to make it easy for this bill to move," McMackin said.

Lawmakers from both parties pushed back against using the budget for bills aimed at setting a price on carbon.

"Climate change legislation could have a profound impact on every family and every sector of our economy, and now it will be possible to have the full and open debate this issue deserves," Republican Senator Mike Johanns said in a statement.

It is possible Democrats could still pursue the budget reconciliation method for climate change bills, but chances are slim because they do not have enough Senate support.

Franz Matzner, acting legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he did not view Wednesday's vote as a setback to climate-change legislation.

"That's just one of many paths forward and all those paths are going to be pursued to get to the solution that the country urgently needs," Matzner said.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to set up a system addressing global warming this year.

A delay in Congress could mean the Obama administration will not be able to show any significant U.S. progress on climate change before a U.N. climate deal is expected to be reached in December in Copenhagen.

Source: Thomsons Reuters

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