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Senate Clears Hurdle On Global Warming Debate

An overwhelming majority of senators voted Monday to dive into a major global warming bill.

But the legislation hailed by environmental advocates as a milestone in the climate change debate is splintering, as Republicans and a handful of Democrats have expressed doubts about the bill’s cost and its impact on American industries.

The legislation has drawn support from moderate Republicans like Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, but it does not appear to have the 60 votes necessary for the bill to clear the Senate. Furthermore,

Democrats from auto and coal producing states have been reticent about backing a bill that industry leaders say will increase the cost of doing business.

The Senate voted 74-14 Monday on a procedural motion that kicks off debate on a climate change bill whose primary mission is to reduce carbon emissions by employing a cap and trade system. This scheme would allow companies that can’t meet pollution reduction goals to purchase credits, with the money diverted to tax relief for consumer energy costs.

Supporters have couched the debate in historic terms, saying it was time for the United States to take a strong stand on global warming, while opponents dismissed the bill as merely a tax on industry that would be passed on to hurting consumers.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Warner said, while his Republican colleague, Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, said the bill represented a “tax increase on all Americans.”

President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation, if it were to clear the Senate, and the House has not put any similar legislation on the schedule.

The timing of the bill has also hurt its prospects. With $4-a-gallon gasoline, new government regulations on energy producers – even in the name of saving the planet – are a nonstarter with many senators. 
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