March 22, 2013 6:15 pm •
WASHINGTON • The Senate “votarama” on amendments to next year’s federal budget turned today into a forum for sending political messages, among them sentiments for and against a carbon tax to combat global warming.
Taxing the carbon content of coal and oil products is viewed by some in Congress as the best way to tackle climate change given that the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fuels become heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
But there is little likelihood of passing a carbon tax anytime soon given political opposition in Congress from most — if not all — Republicans, as well as more than a few Democrats, especially those in red states.
That doesn’t prevent members of Congress like Sen. Roy Blunt from laying down markers.
Twice during consideration of amendments being considered under newly opened Senate budgetmaking the issue of a carbon tax came up this afternoon.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., began his argument for a proposal to set up a fund for carbon fees by saying that Pope Francis remarked last week that people aren’t doing a good job of taking care of the environment.
Blunt, R-Mo., the main objector to the Whitehouse measure, jumped to his feet to observe that the new pope also has been speaking about the need to care better for the disadvantaged.
"This is a tax that slows down our ability to compete. The most vulnerable among us are the most impacted by this," Blunt said.
Whitehouse got just 41 votes.
Immediately, Blunt made a stab at putting the Senate on record with a so-called point of order against any legislation that would put a tax or fee on carbon emissions.
"Energy intensive jobs are the first to go when utility prices get uncompetitive," Blunt said.
Replied Whitehouse: “Except perhaps in Congress and in the boardrooms of ExxonMobil, it is no longer credible to deny what carbon pollution is doing to our atmosphere and our oceans. We aid and abet that harm by subsidizing carbon, distorting the market by violating the rule that the cost of a product should be in its price.”
In the byzantine ways of the Senate, along came a point of order to object to Blunt’s point of order on the grounds that it wasn’t germane to the federal budget.
But wait, there was more: Blunt, who knows a thing or two about parliamentary procedure from his days as a House leader, moved to waive the Budget Act requirement that something must be related to the subject at hand. He demanded a roll call vote on his motion, which requires 60 votes.
He got 53.
Stay tuned for a good deal more in Congress on climate change and the carbon tax.