GOP absent on climate control

Well, that worked great for Republicans, didn’t it?

GOP members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee decided to boycott this week’s vote on the Senate version of cap-and-trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gases.

So Democrats on the committee did exactly what one might expect when they faced no opposition. They easily passed the bill by Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. The GOP boycott accomplished virtually nothing.

That’s not to say Republicans’ concerns about the bill have no merit. They demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency perform a more detailed economic analysis of the costs of the Kerry-Boxer Bill to the U.S. economy and the average American household.

Raising such economic questions is not unreasonable. The Kerry-Boxer bill would require that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions be cut 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and even more in subsequent years.

Based on EPA cost estimates of the similar Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House this summer, proponents of the Kerry-Boxer Bill say the cost to the average American family would be less than $140 a year. But other groups, such as the conservative Heritage Foundation, have put the cost as high as $2,700 a year per household.

The EPA said it would cost $350,000 to do the sort of analysis the Republicans are seeking, and it probably wouldn’t change the cost estimates substantially. But more detailed analysis is warranted for legislation that would have such far-reaching effects on the U.S. economy.

However, by boycotting the committee action this week, Republicans looked more like petulant adolescents than thoughtful opponents of the bill. They could just as easily have raised their concerns about the cost during hearings on the bill.

Besides, even leading Democrats understand they probably don’t have the votes to pass the Kerry-Boxer Bill in the full Senate.

Even before the committee vote on Thursday, according to The Washington Post, Kerry was already conferring with a Republican and an independent senator to see if they could forge a climate bill that would garner more bipartisan support.

If they are going to get any legislation passed on climate issues, the senators need to win support from all parties. They’ll also have to convince U.S. taxpayers that they have realistically estimated the costs of the bill. And they’ll have to clearly explain why those costs are warranted.

And, if Republicans want to exercise some control regarding climate-change legislation, they can’t simply refuse to play the political game when things don’t go their way.


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