Parties Tee Up Global Warming Debate

Posted June 2, 2008 at 4:44pm

Fresh off the Memorial Day recess, Senate Democrats and Republicans are planning for combat over the topic of the week: global warming.

Republicans, who have traditionally shied away from global warming policy, are this time relishing the chance to debate lawmakers on the other side of the aisle on legislation sponsored by Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and primary draftsmen Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.).

A GOP aide acknowledged Monday that the political climate has changed and that Republicans could no longer sit back and allow Democrats to take the lead with voters on environmental policy. The aide added that increasing energy costs have heightened Republicans’ desire to jump into the debate.

Senators used Monday to unveil their global warming proposals and excite their constituencies in order to rally enough support heading into what is expected to a heated and long debate, lasting much of the week.

Democrats held a rally with environmental groups highlighting the Warner-Lieberman bill and previous attempts at combating global warming, arguing that time cannot be wasted. Boxer insisted that passage of the bill is necessary and may affect future national conflicts.

“Global warming will be the future cause of war. It will be related to famine and food shortages in Africa,” the California Senator said.

However, Republican staffers and even some Democratic aides have questioned the timing of the bill, arguing that the combination of a presidential veto threat and high gasoline prices complicates debate. The GOP aide complained that Democratic leaders were attempting to back Republicans into a corner, but said Republicans were fully prepared to match Democrats on the issue.

Republicans sponsored a forum Monday afternoon focusing on offshore oil drilling and developing renewable energy sources.

Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said Democrats are seeking to reduce gasoline prices the wrong way. He advised Democrats to address high gasoline prices before they deal with environmental policy.

“I think they’re on the wrong agenda. Climate change is a real urgent issue, but it’s not the only real urgent issue,” Alexander said. “And the real urgent issue we should be debating is: How do we have clean energy independence in America? And, as we achieve that we will deal with climate change.”