Showdown set in House on carbon tax

House Republicans have teed up a floor vote designed to rebuke long shot carbon tax proposals and politically tether President Obama to them in the process, despite the White House vow never to propose an emissions tax.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is offering an anti-carbon tax amendment to legislation on the floor this week that requires congressional approval of “major” federal regulations.

His amendment to the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS)” Act would include, in the definition of a major rule, “any rule that implements or provides for the imposition or collection of a tax on carbon emissions.”

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The amendment, which will force Democratic lawmakers on the record on carbon taxes, states that a carbon tax would reduce economic growth and increase energy costs.

It’s part of wider efforts by Republicans and an array of conservative groups to prevent carbon tax proposals from gaining any political traction.

A few Democrats and an ad-hoc, left-right coalition of advocates are promoting carbon taxes to battle climate change and, depending on how they’re structured, raise federal revenues or enable reduction of personal tax rates.

For instance, former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) is barnstorming college campuses and newspaper editorial boards to push a revenue neutral “tax swap” that would tax emissions from fossil fuels while lowering other rates.

Republicans are floating the anti-carbon tax amendment despite White House pledges never to propose a carbon tax. In addition, such a change to the tax code would require congressional approval.

The White House climate agenda includes separate plans to curb emissions, including first-time Environmental Protection Agency carbon emissions standards for power plants.

Republicans often seek to portray EPA pollution regulations as de-facto taxes, while backers say that for decades the Clean Air Act has curbed various forms of pollution without crimping economic growth.

But despite the pledge not to propose carbon taxes, Stephen Bell, a spokesman for Scalise, said the amendment would ensure that a needed check on the administration is in place, and put Congress on the record.

“This administration has used every trick in the book to implement their agenda so far and this amendment codifies and clarifies that they need to go through Congress to implement their radical carbon tax and it also specifically puts Congress on record opposing a carbon tax,” Bell said in an email.

The House is scheduled to begin debate on the REINS Act Thursday.

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