With Republicans Still Boycotting, Senate Committee Passes Climate Bill

Thursday, November 05, 2009 at 10:29 am

The Republican boycott persisted, but the Democratic side of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent its landmark climate bill to the full Senate this morning, by a vote of 11-1. All Republicans were absent, as was Democratic Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was the only Democrat to vote against passage, indicating that he wanted to make changes to the legislation but still hoped to see it progress.

The vote for passage was an unusual maneuver. Without a quorum that included at least two Republicans, the committee was unable to open formal debate on amendments to the bill. But passage requires just a simple majority, and Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the Democratic leadership chose to forgo amendments in order to move the legislation quickly, given that the end of the GOP boycott was nowhere in sight.

So where does it go from here? Prospects for passage by the full Senate are murky at best. Several other committee chairmen want to get their hands on the bill, and the Senate leadership will have to merge some dramatically different pieces of legislation before the full Senate vote. In the end, it’s likely that the Boxer bill won’t have legs, writes Dave Roberts; other players will likely decide the legislation’s fate:

[The Boxer] bill will be a dead letter. Already there’s an undercurrent of anxiety in Washington that a bill can never pass as long as it’s associated with an unpopular lady senator who runs one of the body’s most liberal committees. The Senate isn’t like the House. There is no party discipline among Democrats; in fact, Democratic senators are fond of explicitly disclaiming party discipline. It’s a chamber full of large, jostling egos and not a little old-boy sexism. They’re not about to let a combative liberal woman run the show.

So a bill that’s Pure Boxer won’t fly. That’s why you saw, on Wed., the Senate’s perceived centrists—Kerry, Graham, and their new buddy Joe Lieberman—swoop in and and open a “dual track” of negotiations, in consultation with the White House. [...]

[B]y stepping in, Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are letting the political establishment know that the Very Serious grown-ups are back in charge. (It’s pretty telling that Kerry feels the need to craft another bill alongside the one with his name on it.) They will go to the White House, close the door, and hash out what kind of bill can really pass.

Update: Sen. Carper’s office informs me that Carper showed up to the hearing late and voted for passage. I’ve amended the vote tally from 10-1 to 11-1 to reflect this change.

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