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|If you think the partisan divide over
healthcare reform is ugly, take a look at the animus in the Senate
as debate continues on a key climate change bill. So wide is the
gulf that long-held Senate traditions on decorum are breaking down.
And as Washington fiddles, the Earth burns.
The Senate version of a House bill aimed at capping greenhouse gas
emissions was stalled last week by Republicans on the Environment
and Public Works Committee, who boycotted the discussion, demanding
that the Environmental Protection Agency agree to do a more thorough
study of the bill's economic impact. It was an ugly and highly
unusual tactic aimed at delaying a bill that has already been
thoroughly vetted by the EPA, leaving Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.),
the committee chair, little choice but to resort to extremes
herself. She put the bill, S. 1733, up for a vote Thursday without a
single Republican present. That angered Republicans but was even
more frustrating for Democrats -- several wanted to amend the bill,
but with no one from the minority party present, no amendments were
allowed. The bill passed, 11-1.
This doesn't bode well. Wiser heads are working to salvage the
legislation, with John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), Lindsey Graham
(R-South Carolina) and Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) announcing
plans to craft a bill that can attract the 60 votes needed to avoid
a filibuster. But Democrats from Southern and coal-producing states
are reluctant to sign on, and attracting any GOP votes will be a
challenge; many believe the chances are slim that the bill, which
sets a cap on emissions while allowing polluters to trade carbon
credits, will be approved this year.
Such a failure would be disastrous in more ways than one. With no
commitment to cut greenhouse gases in the U.S., it would be next to
impossible to get other big polluter nations on board in Copenhagen
in December for a global agreement on fighting climate change.
Another year's delay will make future efforts more expensive and
less effective. With a third of all Senate seats up for election in
2010, it will become even harder to pass controversial legislation.
Climate skeptics would celebrate all this as a victory. They are not
swayed by the dire forecasts of the International Panel on Climate
Change, nor the endorsements of those findings by the national
academies of science of the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and Brazil.
Confronted by a crisis whose most terrible repercussions will come
after they're dead, they'd rather stick their children with the