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Senate Republicans boycott climate meeting

Their move, shortly before German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Congress to act on the issue, underscores the difficulty of negotiating legislation on global warming.

November 04, 2009|Alexander C. Hart

WASHINGTON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Congress on Tuesday to take dramatic action to stop climate change, but the political difficulties were evident as Republicans boycotted a Senate committee meeting on a global warming bill.

"We cannot afford missing the objectives in climate protection," Merkel said in a joint session of Congress. "The world will look to us, to the Europeans and to the Americans."

Before Merkel's speech, Republicans shunned a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to protest the refusal of Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to order a new analysis of the legislation. The walkout stalled action on the 959-page bill.

Boxer and other committee Democrats say the Environmental Protection Agency's existing analysis, based on a similar bill passed by the House in June, is sufficient.

Republicans rejected that stance. "I don't recall finding meaningful solutions with incomplete information and stark partisanship," Sen. George A. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said before he left.

Most Democrats and some Republicans want to take action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, but negotiating how to accomplish that has proven to be difficult.

The Democrats' bill proposes cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and factories by 20% by 2020, and by more than 80% by 2050.

Among Democrats, some senators from coal-producing areas, such as Montana's Max Baucus and West Virginia's John D. Rockefeller IV, worry that the legislation could harm their states' economies.

As result, Democrats will probably need some Republican votes in order to pass a bill in the Senate, said Daniel J. Weiss of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund. But "the Republicans are trying to create paralysis through their demands for analysis," Weiss said. "It's a stalling tactic."

He argued that most Republicans had opposed the bill before it was introduced and said that only a few, including Voinovich and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, might be persuaded to support a broader bill.

Voinovich insisted his request for more analysis was "not a ruse."

Outside the United States, there is growing frustration with perceived American inaction on climate change.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in September that such legislation would probably have to wait until next year, John Bruton, the European Union's ambassador to the United States, said U.S. action was key to a new global agreement on climate change set to be discussed in December at an international conference in Copenhagen.

"Is the U.S. Senate really expecting all the other countries to make a serious effort on climate change at the Copenhagen conference in the absence of a clear commitment from the United States?" Bruton said.


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