Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has abandoned her plans to draft and mark-up a comprehensive national energy tax modeled after the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill before Congress’s August recess. According to Reuters, Boxer promised, “we’ll do it as soon as we get back” from our month-long vacation.
This should not come as surprise, as problems with the bill were beginning to mount. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have engaged in a very public debate over “carbon tariffs” with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and President Barack Obama. Several other Senators, including the powerful Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) have suggested that much more needs to be done on the agricultural offset side, and the bill could slip into next year. Further complicating matters is the struggle over who gets the tax revenue generated from auctioning off allowances. Close sources suggest Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is fighting with Boxer on how that revenue is spent.
The internal politics are ugly, but those who are doubtful of a cap-and-trade regime should not be celebrating yet. While this may give cap-and-tax supporters time to work out their dramatic differences, the process will ultimately be bad for Americans. Transparency will be a causality for this decision. Had Boxer completed her work when she promised, citizens, the media, and even Senators would have had time to read the legislation before being forced to debate and vote on one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in our country’s history.
Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are trying to recreate the dynamics that ruled the day in the House – draft a bill that no one has time to read, bring it to the floor with a lot of pork, and ram it through. Those antics may work in the House (especially when a $3.5 billion sweetener to secure the vote of one Democratic Congresswoman from Ohio, Marcy Kaptur), they will not work in the Senate, in part because Senators are not typically bound by the draconian rules of the House.
The bottom line is simple – most Americans and most Members of Congress understand cap-and-tax is bad. The only way the minority runs roughshod over the majority is through deceit, a lack of transparency, and disgraceful horse-trading. Americans should seize on this delay by educating themselves on the follies of Waxman-Markey and sharing with anyone who will listen.