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Senate Republicans Block Climate Change Bill
Seven Republican senators voted with most Democrats to move ahead on the bill: Warner, Susan Collins (Maine), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and John E. Sununu (N.H.).
In addition to McCain and Obama, 14 senators did not participate in today's vote: Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Kennedy is hospitalized for cancer treatment, and Byrd was released from a hospital last night.
The days before the vote had been marked by parliamentary maneuvers and bitter accusations over divergent estimates of the bill's future costs. On Wednesday, a group of GOP senators asked that the clerk of the Senate read the entire 491-page bill aloud, an extremely rare request. That took more than 10 hours.
The defeat of the bill came as a relief to some Democrats from coal-producing or heavy industrial states.
Some Democrats were worried yesterday that the GOP might try to block withdrawal of the legislation to prolong a debate that many Democrats think no longer works to their political benefit. Republicans have pounced on the high price of gasoline and have stressed that the climate legislation, by introducing a price on carbon dioxide emissions, would further raise the price of gas along with that of all other fossil fuels.
James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement, "Now Democrats are on record as supporting legislation that would significantly increase prices at the pump and in our homes."
Dozens of amendments died along with the bill. Several sought to impose tariffs on developing countries, such as China, that do not price carbon dioxide emissions. McConnell sought an amendment to allow the energy and transportation secretaries to suspend parts of the legislation if they believed it had raised gasoline prices.
Environmentalists said that by bringing the bill to the floor, Reid had at least gotten senators to focus on climate change for the first time in three years.
"They are now being forced to look at this: What is the United States going to do on the most important issue facing the planet?" said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "You have to have something concrete to get people's attention. This did it."
Environmentalists said they plan a lobbying and advertising campaign in the months ahead aimed at recalcitrant legislators.
"We now have a clear picture of which senators are listening to oil companies instead of the public, and we intend to hold them accountable," said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation.
Some environmentalists said the bill was too weak, in any case. The bill aimed to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at 488 parts per million, rather than at 350 parts per million, which climate scientists such as NASA's James E. Hansen see as necessary.
"Any bill that does not set us on track to reduce atmospheric carbon levels to 350 parts per million is wishful and dangerous thinking," wrote Kierán Suckling, of the Center for Biological Diversity, in an e-mail. "We're thankful the bill was introduced, but more thankful that it did not pass."