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Boxer, Democrats Pass Climate Bill Without Amendments Through Committee

Fed up with waiting for the Republicans to stop their boycott, today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed their climate and energy bill without a markup, sending the chairman’s mark directly out of committee.

Rep. Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, had delayed the crucial vote for days because of a Republican protest over whether the cost of the legislation had been fully examined. But the California Democrat moved quickly to pass the bill, which for the first time would set mandatory limits on heat-trapping gases, without any of the seven GOP senators on the panel present. The measure cleared the panel on a 11-1 vote.

Boxer said the Republican demand for more analysis was “duplicative and waste of taxpayer dollars.”

The no vote came from – wait for it – Max Baucus. And his committee has jurisdiction. So this isn’t the end of the road by any means.

By the way, what does Max Baucus want? Believe it or not, a trigger.

Baucus specifically cited the bill’s call for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. He said he would like to see that target lowered to 17 percent, with a trigger to raise it to 20 percent if other countries adopted similar measures.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee rules state that the committee cannot mark up a bill unless two members of the minority party are present. So Boxer decided simply to not mark up the bill, and pass the base version.

As I noted yesterday, this process moves into the hands of John Kerry, and the bipartisan working group he’s leading to try and find a climate bill that can gather 60 votes. That bill may include a cap and trade element, but would also likely try to expand the role of nuclear power, clean coal technology and offshore drilling to capture ConservaDems and a few Republicans. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman are working with Kerry on that effort.

Regardless of whether this dual track negotiation yields something worth a darn, I consider it positive that Boxer refused to let James Inhofe and his cadre delay her bill forever. Better to pass it out and move forward than give in to Republican obstruction.

UPDATE: Shockingly, James Inhofe isn’t pleased. Here’s his statement:

I am deeply disappointed by Chairman Boxer’s decision to violate the rules and longstanding precedent of the committee. The Republicans offered a clear path forward to a bipartisan markup, but it was summarily rejected by Chairman Boxer. Instead, she decided to ignore the entreaties of all 6 ranking members from Senate committees with some share of jurisdiction over climate change legislation, as well as leading moderates in the Senate. Her action signals the death knell for the Kerry Boxer bill.

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David Dayen

David Dayen