What needs to change in the climate bill to get the republicans to sign it?



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    I assume you are referring to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which was passed by the US House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 and has been languishing in the Senate ever since. The main feature of the bill was the establishment of a national cap-and-trade system which would set a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases that the US can emit, and then permit private companies to sell or swap carbon credits to meet these goals. The vote on the bill was a squeaker in the House, passing by the razor-thin margin of 219 to 212. A vote that close means it’s not just Republicans who don’t like it, but a number of Democrats. The main arguments against the bill are that it will create economic distress, that it’s a tax increase in disguise, that it doesn’t have enough support for nuclear power, and that it could spark a trade war with China. It’s difficult to address these issues without fundamentally changing the structure of what the bill proposes, which is part of why it hasn’t been moving very far in the Senate. As the recent health care debate showed, doing any business in the US Senate is very difficult these days. Although Democrats control it 59 to 41, by internal Senate procedural rules, the majority needs 60 votes to cut off debate and bring a particular bill to a vote. With a Republican minority of 41 that is remarkably cohesive and totally united against virtually any proposal advanced by the Obama administration, this means effectively that unless a proposed bill has the support of at least 60 Senators–including, by definition, at least one Republican willing to buck his or her party–the bill will probably not be passed. (There is an exception, the “reconciliation” procedure which resulted in the health care bill, but that’s a more complicated issue). What will satisfy Republicans on energy and climate change legislation? I’m not sure, nor am I sure that they themselves know. Congress has been distracted by the health care and economic debates, and thus climate change is lower on the priority list though I hope it may soon advance up the pole.

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