Carbon taxes spurned in Senate budget vote

Blunt’s amendment drew a procedural protest that itself would have required 60 votes to overcome, and only got 53 “yes” votes — a majority, but not enough. He drew eight centrist Democrats to his side.

The votes on the nonbinding budget resolutions were largely symbolic, and didn’t quite tackle the idea of taxing carbon emissions head-on or address specific proposals on emissions fees.

But they nonetheless illustrated that Republicans and centrist Democrats appear to form a clear majority against fees on emissions from oil and coal producers, power plants and other sources.

Whitehouse, one of the most active Senate advocates for aggressive steps to address climate change, and Blunt squared off before the votes.

The Rhode Island Democrat suggested the new Pope would be on his side.

“We have a new Pope, Pope Francis, who said last week that our relation with God’s creation is not very good right now,” Whitehouse said.

“God’s creation runs by laws — the laws of nature, the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, and God gave us the power of reason to understand those laws,” added Whitehouse, who speaks often on the floor about the dangers of climate change.

“But they are not negotiable, they are not subject to amendment or appeal, and the arrogance of our thinking that they are is an offence to his creation,” he said.

Blunt countered Whitehouse’s analysis of the Pope.

“I know the Pope also mentioned — more times that he mentioned carbon tax — helping the poor,” said Blunt.

He said carbon taxes would hurt the economy and struggling families, noting, “the most vulnerable among us are the most impacted by this.”

Blunt also said a carbon tax would hurt manufacturing. “Energy intensive jobs are the first to go when utility prices get uncompetitive,” he said later in the debate.

But Whitehouse said it’s time for stronger climate policy.

“We ignore carbon pollution at our peril, and we have subsidized it long enough. It is past time to wake up from our sleepwalking,” he said.

The budget amendments will not have any impact on policy. The budget resolution is nonbinding, and, in any case, the Senate Democrats’ plan is unlikely to ever be reconciled with the one from House Republicans.

On climate, the White House has said it will not propose a carbon tax to Congress.

And President Obama has vowed to take stronger steps to battle global warming using his executive powers if Congress remains gridlocked on climate change.

This post was updated at 6:42 p.m.