By Ben Geman - 03/21/13 08:19 PM EDT
It would create a “point of order” against any carbon tax measure that could only be overcome with the votes of three-fifths of the Senate.
Blunt’s amendment provides opponents of carbon taxes a political messaging vehicle.
“The Blunt Amendment is an important line in the sand. It will force every senator to take a stand for or against American families, and if it passes, it will deal a death blow to the greatest legislative threat to affordable energy we currently face,” said Thomas Pyle, President of the American Energy Alliance, a group partly funded by fossil fuel interests.
The group and other opponents of carbon taxes say they would hurt the economy by driving up energy costs.
“A carbon tax would burden every American with higher energy costs – especially the poorest families who simply cannot afford to pay more to fill up their gas tanks and heat their homes,” Blunt said, adding that a carbon tax would hurt U.S. manufacturing and coal-reliant states like Missouri.
Proponents call them a way to begin putting a “price on carbon” that’s vital to addressing U.S. emissions and argue that the revenues could be used to help reduce the deficit or enable the lowering of other taxes.
Blunt's amendment is largely symbolic. Carbon tax plans currently have little political traction on Capitol Hill, and the White House has said it will not float a carbon tax.
And the Democratic budget plan is nonbinding and unlikely to be reconciled with the very different House GOP budget.
Also, any controversial legislation already requires 60 votes to overcome near-certain filibusters, so the three-fifths hurdle is effectively in place already.
The Blunt amendment is one of what could be several climate-related battles on the budget.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is floating an amendment that would nullify the Obama administration’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
It blocks regulation “unless and until China, India and Russia implement similar reductions,” according to a summary his office provided.
“This would prevent the unilateral increase in the cost of energy to U.S. consumers and businesses while China, India and Russia avoid taking any action,” Vitter's office said.
This post was updated at 4:47 p.m. and 6:19 p.m.