With Clock Ticking, McCain’s Push for Climate Change Bill Irritates Colleagues

Posted October 29, 2003 at 6:43pm

Senate Republicans, who are racing to finish must-pass legislation by mid-November, are irritated that they’re being forced to take up a global warming bill that has little chance of landing on President Bush’s desk.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the measure’s sponsors, insist they’re merely following up on Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) promise to vote on the measure before the Senate adjourns for the year.

The floor vote, which is expected Thursday, comes three months after McCain and Lieberman threatened to hold up Senate passage of the energy bill without a deal on the climate change legislation.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) said the promise made in July is a lingering nuisance.

“I’d rather not bring it up or vote on it,” Santorum said. “It’s going to fail, but we keep our promises.”

Calling it “bad legislation,” Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said the bill is a distraction taking up valuable time at the end of the session.

“It’s unfortunate we have to vote on it,” said Lott, who recalled that when he was Majority Leader the maverick McCain used similar tactics to get his pet causes on the Senate calendar.

“I’ve dealt with McCain as leader, and he gets things wrapped around the axle so you have to give him a vote on something at a specific time, or he’ll put it on something you don’t want it on,” Lott said.

Despite getting the agreement on the vote, McCain caused the leadership some more headaches by balking at the original proposal to have the vote one night this week.

McCain insisted on the legislation being voted upon in the daytime. “I want the debate with the people’s attention,” he said.

The McCain-Lieberman bill proposes massive reductions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The mandatory cuts would mostly impact the transportation, industrial and commercial economic sectors, which together make up 85 percent of U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases.

Introduced in January as an amendment to the Senate energy bill, a time crunch before the August break pushed it out of the mix. At that time, Frist promised six hours of debate and a vote sometime after September.

“I want to see a strong feeling for this vote,” said Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who supports the legislation.

Skeptics, however, insist the energy-use regulations would have little effect on the environment.

“It wouldn’t do a measurable thing about the environment,” said Patrick Michaels, an environmentalist at the Cato Institute. “The reductions in the bill wouldn’t have a substantial effect.”