Monday, September 28, 2009

Cap and tax in the US Senate: a who's who of the villains and their committees

Although the attention is on public-option healthcare, the NY Times reports that six committees in the Senate are working to advance cap and trade (cap and tax) legislation. Since (a) the House has already passed a version of cap-and-tax and (b) Obama will likely sign any such bill the Congress delivers to him, what happens next in the Senate is critically important:
  1. Environment and Public Works Committee

    Sen. Barbara Boxer (chair, D-CA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, chair of the Finance Committee), are expected to release a draft bill that will be based largely on Waxman and Markey's H.R. 2454 (PDF, 932 pages) . Sen. Kerry seems less concerned with what is in the bill that with what it is called:
    Kerry made attempts to reframe the verbiage surrounding the bill and sell its concepts more broadly, insisting it is not a "cap and trade" proposal but a "pollution reduction" bill. "I don't know what 'cap and trade' means. I don't think the average American does," Kerry told reporters. "This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it's a pollution reduction bill."
    Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), the Senate's strongest voice of reason on this topic, is the ranking minority member on this committee.

  2. Energy and Natural Resources Committee

    This committee, chaired by Sen. Bingaman (D-NM), has approved an energy bill, S. 1462 (PDF, 532 pages), which the NY Times says "includes a nationwide renewable electricity standard and a raft of other energy incentives, including a provision that could bring oil and gas rigs closer to Florida's Gulf Coast." Sen. Bingaman is concerned about limiting the costs that cap and trade might impose on industry.

  3. Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

    This committee, chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), is expected to hold votes on various cap and trade issues. Because West Virginia produces a lot of coal, Sen. Rockefeller is expected to negotiate special deals and exceptions for his coal producers.

  4. Committee on Finance

    Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) says his committee will mark-up the provisions on international trade and the allocation of emission allowances provided Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the bill is "clearly moving." Politico reports that Sen. Baucus is claiming that his committee has jurisdiction over distributing "hundreds of billions of dollars in pollution allocations" and the value of this political prize is putting him in direct conflict with Sen. Boxer and her committee.

  5. Comittee on Foreign Relations

    Sen. Kerry (Chair, D-MA), who is contributing to Sen. Boxer's bill (see above), is also "preparing language without convening a markup."

  6. Comittee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

    This committee, chaired by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), is also "preparing language without convening a markup." Sen. Lincoln says that no cap and trade bill will pass the Senate this year.
Of these six chairmen, only Boxer and Kerry appear to be global-warming-true-believers. However, because they are backed by the president, the possibility of cap-and-tax legislation, which would potentially impose large and unpredictable costs on industry, continues to be a threat to the economy.

RELATED: On the Republican side, there are four senators whom Dems hope will vote for cap-and-tax: Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Richard Lugar (R-IN).

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