WASHINGTON (CN) – In a controversial move, Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to send the climate change bill to the Senate floor Thursday despite a Republican boycott. Republicans say that committee rules were violated. But California Democratic Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said the Senate “can’t be paralyzed.”
“This committee has done its job” of looking out for the environment, she said.
No Republicans participated in the 10-1 vote, with Montana Democrat Max Baucus casting the lone opposing vote.
Though Boxer called the move an important step forward, she said she regretted that it had to be without Republican support.
Oklahoma Ranking Member, Sen. James Inhofe said the single-party vote “signals the death knell for the Kerry Boxer bill.”
“I am deeply disappointed by Chairman Boxer’s decision to violate the rules and longstanding precedent of the committee,” Inhofe said. He said the committee usually needs at least two minority members present at the vote in order to pass the bill to the floor.
Without Republicans, Democrats have not been able to amend the 900-page bill, which aims to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly than the House version, but mirrors the House bill in establishing a cap-and-trade system where factories can trade pollution credits.
It would require that U.S. emissions fall 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, stricter than the 17 percent drop mandated by the House bill. Both the House and the Senate bills require an 83 percent drop from 2005 levels by 2050.
Republicans strongly oppose the bill and have argued that large increases in energy costs would hurt consumers and the economy.
Democrats agree that the law would result in higher energy prices, but say the increase would be minimal, costing the average family the equivalent of a postage stamp each day.
Republicans have boycotted the committee’s work on the bill, insisting that the Environmental Protection Agency conduct a cost analysis.
Boxer has said that an EPA analysis would be duplicative and a waste of money.
Despite the step, many see no chance that a final bill will pass before December, when the United Nations is scheduled to hold a climate-change conference in Copenhagen.
Because Congress must ratify such an agreement, many are watching to see how far Congress is willing to go in fighting climate change.
Baucus, the only committee member to vote against the legislation, will have an opportunity to submit his own version as chair of the Senate Finance Committee.