Politicians Filibuster US Climate Legislation

Washington, DC (June 6, 2008)- By a vote of 48-36, the Senate failed to invoke cloture (cut off a filibuster) on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (S. 3036). Sixty votes are required to achieve cloture and limit debate- 16 Senators were not present to vote. The vote was specifically on cloture for Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) substitute amendment (S.A. 4825) to the bill. The legislation would cap emissions of greenhouse gases from covered sources at 19 percent below current levels by 2020 and 71 percent below current levels in 2050. It would set up a market-based trading program for businesses to meet the cap.


Jeremy Symons, Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Global Warming Program, said, “48 Senators voted to move forward on global warming legislation, with another six Senators who couldn’t be at the vote today going the extra step to enter statements that they would have voted ‘yes.’ In all, 54 Senators spoke up for the need to advance serious legislation on global warming, far surpassing the 38 votes in 2005 and 43 votes in 2003 for legislation that was significantly weaker than the Lieberman-Warner bill. Supporters today included 10 Senate converts who had not supported cap-and-trade legislation in prior votes (2003 and 2005). Senator by Senator, we are seeing members of Congress respond to science and the public rather than the oil and coal industries. The number of Senators opposing serious global warming legislation plummeted to an all time low of 36 Senators.”
Sen. Reid did not keep open the option of reconsidering the vote, as he normally does when he intends to try again at a later date. The bill is unlikely to come up again this Congress. Although passage this year was never expected, supporters had hoped to get the Senate on record on key amendments that could help shape a climate change bill in the next Congress. Instead, the Senate failed to take up issues that will be critical to any future legislation, such as the role of nuclear power or whether to pre-empt more stringent action at the state level.
Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid read into the Congressional Record (pages: S5015-S5016) an internal memo provided by a lobbyist involved in Republican strategy meetings detailing the Republican strategy for the Senate Floor debate of the Climate Security Act of 2008 (S. 3036). The memo said, in part, “The thinking now is to still use as much of the 30 hours post-cloture on the motion to proceed for debate on thematically-grouped amendments. The goal is for a theme (example: climate bill equals higher gas prices) each day, and the focus is much more on making political points than in amending the bill, changing the baseline text for any future debate or affecting policy.”
Reid said, “So this Republican strategy memo could not be more clear. The Republican plan for dealing with the greatest challenge facing this world and this Nation is more about making political points than legislating. . . But there is more to this cynical strategy that is completely out of touch with this body’s obligations and the American people’s expectations. Continuing from a Republican strategy memo, I will quote: ‘GOP anticipates a struggle over which amendments are debated and eventually finger-pointing over blame for demise of the bill. In the GOP view, this will take at least the rest of this week, and hopefully into next week.’ Mr. President, you could not make anything up more cynical.”
The filibuster may have been a moot point anyway, though, because President Bush said he would veto the Climate Security Act of 2008 (S. 3036) in its current form because he claims it would cost the US economy approximately $6 trillion. He said, “I urge the Congress to be very careful about running up enormous costs for future generations of Americans. We’ll work with the Congress, but the idea of a huge spending bill fueled by tax increases isn’t the right way to proceed.”
Bush’s estimate drew quick denials from those who support the legislation. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, “Just when we finally have a chance to get off of Big Oil and foreign oil, you can count on the Bush administration to fight us every step of the way. Where were they when gas prices went to 250 percent of what they were at the start of this administration? They did nothing.”
Related Resources:
Congressional Quarterly- Debate on Climate Bill Stalls as Part of Dispute Over Judicial Nominations
US Mayors and Labor Representatives Urge Senate to Pass Climate Security Act
White House Position on Climate Security Act of 2008 (S. 3036)
Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works- Boxer Says Bush
Administration Attack on Global Warming Legislation is to Protect Big Oil and Foreign Oil

Las Vegas Sun- Republicans stall climate change bill to punish Reid