Democrats said Republicans just wanted to stall the bill.
Voinovich insisted the boycott was not a “ruse” intended to block the bill, only that Republicans wanted a fuller economic analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which released a 38-page summary when the bill was released last Friday.
The boycott immediately raised questions about the ability of Senate Democrats to attract Republican support on the controversial issue of climate change. Earlier in the week the ranking members of six committees with jurisdiction over the bill warned the Democrats on the committee not to act without Republican participation.
Committee precedent calls for at least two Republicans to participate, although Boxer as chairwoman apparently had the discretion to move forward with just a quorum of members. In an effort to entice Republicans back into the fold, she gave committee members another day to file amendments and invited EPA officials to testify on Tuesday afternoon about the analysis they have done of the Senate climate bill.
“I have done something unprecedented as far as we can tell,” Boxer said.
Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFive takeaways from Pruitt's EPA hearing Health pick’s trades put STOCK Act in spotlight Dems prepare to face off with Trump's pick to lead EPA MORE (D-R.I.) and other committee Democrats rallied around Boxer, charging Republicans with obstructionism. The EPA analysis was in part based on an earlier examination of the House climate bill, which Democrats said was justified given the similarities between the two bills.
Whitehouse admitted the EPA had not done a thorough examination of the Senate climate bill, but that it didn’t make sense to wait five weeks for one to be done.
He said the bill would likely be amended during the markup, which could change the results of an analysis. It also will eventually be melded with bills approved by other committees, including a Renewable Portfolio Standard adopted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel that could also change the cost estimates.
“The bill on the floor will not be the same,” Whitehouse said.
But the modeling the EPA has done is “more than adequate” to reassure members that the climate bill will not lead to big increases in energy costs, Whitehouse said.
“The Republican Party has increasingly become the party of no,” said Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhat we know and don’t know about Trump’s healthcare plans Sanders to Trump: 'Women aren’t going back to second-class citizenship' Sanders: 'Amusing' that Trump attacked establishment sitting right behind him MORE (I-Vt.).
Boxer, who repeatedly encouraged Republicans to join the markup, said Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidFranken emerges as liberal force in hearings GOP eyes new push to break up California court The DC bubble is strangling the DNC MORE (D-Nev.) had promised a full economic analysis when the various parts of the climate bill are joined.
But Voinovich pleaded for Boxer to postpone the markup and direct the EPA to conduct a fuller analysis of the bill. The EPA has found only a modest cost impact of the House bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyBuying that new-used car: Congress must put safety first Overnight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Senate Dems want Trump to withdraw from Pacific trade deal MORE (D-Mass.). The agency also expects the Senate measure to cost the average American household between $80 and $111 a year, or 22 to 30 cents per day.
Voinovich said, however, that the EPA analysis is based on unrealistic assumptions, like a big build-out of nuclear plants and of coal plants with carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
“We are rushing headlong to a vote when the American people need answers,” Voinovich said.
Dean Sagar, director of livable communities for the AARP, said the Senate bill might provide around $2.5 billion less in relief a year for low-income families than the House bill. But he said Democrats have said they were open to providing additional relief to consumers.
Boxer read several letters of support for the climate bill and defended the analysis the EPA has done as “in-depth” and “comprehensive.”
“You have to ask yourself, What more could they want, and why would they want it?” Boxer said, referring to committee Republicans.