Senators have voted on two side-by-side amendments to the concurrent budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 13) dealing with future climate change legislation which would impose a new cap-and-trade system on businesses.
This all centers around an amendment offered by Senator John Thune (R-SD) which would “prohibit the collection of funds from any future cap and trade proposal if that proposal would increase electricity rates and gasoline prices for American households and businesses,” per a press release.
Here is the bill text on climate change legislation:
(b) Climate Change Legislation- The Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels and limits in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, motions, or conference reports that would invest in clean energy technology initiatives, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, or help families, workers, communities, and businesses make the transition to a clean energy economy, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2009 through 2014 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2009 through 2019.
Specifically, the Thune amendment would add the following text after the word “economy” in the text above: “without increasing electricity or gasoline prices.”
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) offered a side-by-side amendment which would modify the Thune amendment by adding that cap-and-trade provisions should not increase the overall burden on consumers. This would be accomplished by using revenues from the newly created system. It was adopted by a vote of 54 to 43.
So the basic thrust of the argument between the two amendments is that Senator Thune and Senate Republicans don’t believe that revenues from the cap-and-trade proposal will go to American consumers but instead to fund additional federal programs. They refer to the idea as a national energy tax.
The Thune amendment was also adopted by a vote of 89 to 8. Senate Democrats were free to support it after the Boxer language was successfully added.
I’m a little fuzzy as to what the adoption of both of these amendments now means, but essentially it seems like a wash. Several Senate Republicans, however, see the Boxer language as a loophole to allow for increases, at least temporarily, in energy prices as cap-and-trade provisions are implemented.
Update: The AP clears things up a bit. They note that passage of the Boxer amendment detailed above signals that the Senate has “endorsed using revenues from controversial cap-and-trade auctions of permits for emitting greenhouse gases to help consumers pay higher gasoline and electricity prices.”