Global Warming Vote

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A motion to proceed to a resolution sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, that would express the Senate’s “disapproval” of the Environmental Protection Agency’s move this week to regulate greenhouse gases failed today 47-53. The Agency argues that it is complying with a 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts vs. the EPA where the court ruled the EPA should regulate such emissions.

Republicans said clamping down on such emissions would result in much higher energy costs for consumers, a price Americans can ill afford in this recession and one that could cost jobs. “My vote today was based solely on the reality that the Murkowski amendment was our only opportunity to prevent the EPA from issuing a set of blanket regulations which could produce unforeseen, damaging consequences for more than 1,600 businesses and industries throughout the country – including more than 30 facilities in Maine representing more than 8,500 jobs – during these already challenging economic times,” Senator Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, said in a statement.

Dems painted the opposition as being against action on global warming on behalf of big business, even as BP’s Deepwater oil leak spreads across the Gulf. “This is a vote between whether we recognize the greatest environmental risk of our time or whether we legitimize deniers of that,” Senator John Kerry said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The stakes for our country are enormous. And if you have any doubt about this, every day on television everybody is seeing what is happening in the Gulf.”

The issue did not break clearly along party lines. Six Democrats, including Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, voted for the measure as they believe the issue is important enough to warrant congressional approval. “EPA regulation of greenhouse gases does not move us any closer to a clean energy future or to reducing our dependency on foreign oil. And furthermore, it simply is the wrong tool for addressing greenhouse gas emissions,” Lincoln said. No Republicans voted against it.

Still, the vote was instructive. It shows how much industry is chafing at the EPA’s moves to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and could provide some momentum to climate change legislation: just about any oil lobbyist will tell you that they prefer Congress drafting their rules – where their input will be weighed more sympathetically – than the EPA. At the same time, it shows the challenge ahead for leaders hoping to pass an energy bill in July: with only 53 senators on the record voting for the regulation of greenhouse gases, they’ll need to convince another seven if they hope to include climate provisions in order to overcome an anticipated filibuster.