GOP Boycotts Senate Panel On Climate Change
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And over in the Senate, a feud over climate change legislation prompted a rare move by Republicans. They boycotted the final drafting of a major bill on global warming. Two Republicans were needed for a quorum in the Environment and Public Works Committee, only one showed up.
NPRs David Welna explains what happened.
DAVID WELNA: Chairwoman Barbara Boxer wants her environment committee to be the first of six Senate panels to finish cap-and-trade legislation, similar to what the House passed last summer. Republicans have been saying, slow down. But Boxer last night vowed to begin the final drafting of her bill today.
Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): Im going to start sharply at nine. And everyone has five minutes and when then its hopefully the Republicans show up. I hope so.
WELNA: But as the so-called markup got underway this morning, Boxer noted the obvious.
Sen. BOXER: The Republicans arent here and their reason is theyre dissatisfied with the EPA analysis.
WELNA: Republicans had earlier demanded a more thorough analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency. Boxer called that stalling.
Sen. BOXER: Theres no reason - no reason at all to do initial additional analysis and spend more taxpayers dollars doing it when the work has been done. The only reason it seems to me one would ask for that is to delay this process, not to do it at all.
WELNA: Pennsylvanias Arlen Specter, himself a Republican until becoming a Democrat earlier this year, backed up Boxer.
Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Democrat, Pennsylvania): We have a practice in the worlds greatest deliberative body of disagreeing without being disagreeable. But you cant disagree with an empty chair.
WELNA: As Specter spoke, Ohios George Voinovich slipped in, the first and the only Republican on the committee to show up. Voinovich told Boxer Republicans thought she was acting in haste.
Senator GEORGE VOINOVICH (Republican, Ohio): I know you insist EPA has provided a full analysis, but that contradicts testimony from the EPA administrator herself, who said flatly that the agency has not conducted a full analysis.
WELNA: Voinovich further insisted his partys motives were purer.
Sen. VOINOVICH: Madam Chairman, asking for an EPA analysis is not a stalling tactic. This is not a ruse to prevent this committee from marking up a climate bill.
WELNA: Committee Democrats werent buying Voinovichs protestations. Heres Oregons Jeff Merkley.
Senator JEFF MERKLEY (Democrat, Oregon): This is not a time to try to put more angles on the head of a pin. This is a time to say we have a phenomenal amount of analysis addressing all of the key points. Lets immerse ourselves in a bipartisan discussion.
WELNA: But by then, Voinovich had already left the markup. Idahos Mike Crapo is one of the six other committee Republicans who stayed away. Crapo said in an interview that he and the others would end their boycott under only one condition.
Senator MIKE CRAPO (Republican, Idaho): If you will get the analysis on the bill, we will have a markup. And I think thats very reasonable. But until that happens as of this point, until that happens, I think that we hold back.
WELNA: Not one Republican attended a special afternoon session where Boxer had an EPA expert on hand to answers questions. She said shell just keep waiting for the Republicans to show up.
Sen. BOXER: And the minute that they come in, we will start the amendment process. I also want to just make sure everybody knows that the committee plans to do its work. Were not going be deterred. We have to do our work. Its our job.
WELNA: Democrats on the environment panel outnumber Republicans almost two to one, so Boxer might invoke an arcane rule allowing a markup with a simple majority. That could get her bill out of committee, but it would also likely mean more bad blood ahead in the Senate when it comes to climate change.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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