Apparently three days of debate was enough for what many senators called "the most important issue facing the planet."
With little chance of winning passage of a sweeping 500-page global warming bill, the Senate Democratic leadership is planning to yank the legislation after failing to achieve the 60 vote threshold needed to move the bill to the next stage. After a 48-36 vote on the climate change bill, the Senate is likely to move on to an energy debate next week.
The legislation collapsed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the poor timing of debating a bill predicted to increase energy costs while much of the country is focused on $4 a gallon gas. On top of that, a number of industrial state Democrats like Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio were uncomfortable with the strong emissions caps that would have created a new regime of regulations for coal, auto and other manufacturing industries. Republicans, for the most part, held firm against a bill they said would cost billions in regulations while pushing the cost of gas higher. Seven Republicans, mostly moderates, voted for the procedural motion on the legislation while four Democrats voted against it.
Democrats did not go into the debate expecting passage of the legislation, but they did celebrate a marginal increase in support for the cap and trade system for emissions that was the centerpiece of the bill. Similar legislation in previous years did not even come close to getting 50 votes in the Senate, so Friday morning's vote was a moral victory of sorts. Several senators who missed the vote, including John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, would have voted for the bill, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said on the Senate floor this morning.
The debate in many ways was about setting the stage for a more serious climate change effort under the next presidential administration. While President Bush would have vetoed any cap and trade bill this year, both McCain and Obama back some form of mandatory emissions reduction, so this debate will gain serious traction again next year.
Brown, a liberal freshman senator whose home state of Ohio has been particularly hard hit by manufacturing job loss, seemed almost apologetic for voting against the bill. He called global warming "the moral question of our time" and said he supported a cap and trade system. But Brown said he feared that the cap and trade system as written would allow the United States to "export emissions" rather than reducing them because foreign countries without tough pollution standards would take the U.S. jobs eliminated under a cap and trade mandate.
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