Do Democrats have the energy to pass a climate tax?

With Halloween behind us, there are still several legislative scares ahead. One is a massive energy tax in a “climate change” costume.

Last week, the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works held three days worth of hearings to discuss the proposed cap-and-trade legislation introduced by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. This proposal, similar to the Waxman-Markey bill passed in July, places several restrictions on domestic energy producers, destroying jobs and raising the cost of energy for every family.
 
Today, Boxer, the committee chair, plans to hold a full markup on her proposal despite a rumored boycott of the hearing by all seven Republicans on the committee. According to Senate rules, Boxer cannot hold a markup without at least two Republicans present.

Leading the Republican opposition are Sens. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. If Boxer is unable to bring Republicans to the table, it could send the message to her caucus that she is unable to manage this bill — a message that some have already received.

Reports early last month indicated that confidence in her ability to lead the committee has decreased so significantly among the staff that several Democrat staffers, not just from Boxer’s office, have jumped ship. The critical blow came when Senior Counsel Joe Goffman, a significant player in the 1990 Clean Air Act battle, left at the beginning of October, citing that he had been left out of the construction of this bill.

Much of the Republican criticism is not a “no for the sake of no” argument. Several conservatives — including ranking republican member Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. — have focused much of their concern on the lack of information surrounding this proposal.

Organizations such as The Heritage Foundation have determined the $700 billion-plus package will cost 2 to 3 million jobs by the time cap and trade will be fully implemented. Other outside organizations say the Kerry-Boxer proposal will increase every American family’s energy costs by $1,700 to $3,500 per year.

Yet, Inhofe is focused on the absence of transparency and data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House, saying, “We don’t have a full economic analysis.” During last week’s hearings he said, “This isn’t just my view. On Tuesday, Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, when asked whether EPA had conducted a full analysis, she said, very clearly, ‘No.’”

Inhofe and all committee members should be skeptical. A recent Freedom of Information Act request resulted in the release of several internal Treasury and White House documents that indicated cap and trade could cost as much as $100 to $200 billion per year and admissions that it will raise energy costs for every family. Despite the forced disclosure of the documents, several lines and dollar amounts were redacted with black ink.

Republicans are not alone in their staunch opposition to cap and trade and the Kerry-Boxer proposal. Democratic Senators have expressed severe reservations with this legislation, including Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Mary Landrieu, D-La.

With Democrat leadership unable to hold their own caucus in place and a lack of transparency from the EPA and White House, the GOP’s commitment to boycott today’s hearing may send this “climate change” legislation into a cooling period.

Brian M Johnson handles federal energy policy and lobbying at Americans for Tax Reform (www.atr.org).

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