The United States Senate has made some progress on climate change legislation. On 5 November 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved legislation, known as the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S.1733) on by an 11-1 vote, with Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and 10 other Committee Democrats signing off on the legislation. The bill, sponsored by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Boxer, would seek to improve America’s energy efficiency, promote renewable energy, transition to a green economy, adapt to climate change, and would require a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. However, while many cheer the passage out of committee as a victory, the win was not without political cost.

Passage came without the consent of any EPW Republicans, who led a three-day long boycott of the legislative markup, referencing a need for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a more thorough analysis of the costs of climate change legislation before the committee vote. The boycott prevented any formal debate on amendments or reporting of the bill, forcing EPW Democrats to use a procedural move to pass the legislation. Some fear this will undermine support from moderates when the bill reaches the Senate floor, however, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has requested that the EPA conduct a five week study of whatever version of the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Now that climate legislation has left the EPW Committee, the Senate-wide debate will begin to heat up. Five more committees are planning to mark up their portions of the legislation, including the Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, and Foreign Relations Committees. Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus (D-MT) — the lone Democrat on the EPW committee to vote against the Kerry-Boxer legislation — has cited several issues he will address when his committee considers the legislation. Baucus has announced that his panel will study the implications of global warming legislation on jobs by listening to testimony from labor unionists and energy industry experts, and is likely to also hold a markup on the international trade provisions of a climate bill. As chairman, Baucus may also use his position to lower the 2020 emissions standards and could attempt to change the distribution of greenhouse gas emission allowances among regulated industries. Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will also consider the legislation with a wide-ranging discussion on options for tackling climate change. The remaining committees have not yet announced formal plans for legislative hearings or markups.


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