House slams door on carbon tax

The House approved an amendment to legislation Friday that would prevent the White House from imposing a carbon tax without congressional approval.

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The lower chamber agreed to Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) amendment by a 237-176 vote, with 12 Democrats crossing the aisle to support it.

The amendment was added to an underlying bill that would require Congress to OK regulations that carry a $100 million economic impact or greater. That bill is dead in its tracks in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has threatened to veto it.

Scalise’s measure doesn’t have much of a practical implication, as Congress — not the executive branch — is tasked with approving new taxes.

It does, however, put many Democratic lawmakers on record as supporting a carbon tax. The carbon tax concept has riled many conservatives, and many are trying to make sure it doesn't gain traction.

Republicans say a carbon tax would stunt the economy by raising energy prices on fossil fuel-fired power — chiefly, coal.

Some conservative think tanks and green groups have floated the idea as a way to curb emissions while also generating enough revenues to offset lower personal tax rates.

Still, the likelihood of Congress moving on a carbon tax remains slim.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was among those who supported Scalise's amendment.

Camp is currently trying to shepherd an overhaul of the federal tax code through Congress, which some observers have suggested could prove a conduit for a carbon tax.

“Struggling Americans who have been unable to find a job or have not seen their paychecks grow would be hit with this national energy tax every time they pay their utility bills or fill up their gas tanks or go to the grocery store. It would also be another tax on manufacturers and another increased cost of doing business imposed on middle-class families by the Obama administration,” Camp said in a statement.

In addition to the House rejecting the idea, there’s likely enough Republicans and centrist Democrats to thwart a carbon tax in the Senate. The White House also has said it won’t propose a carbon tax.

The Friday vote is an outgrowth of opposition to the regulations President Obama has called for in his climate agenda, which Republicans have taken to calling de facto energy taxes.

The centerpiece of the climate plan Obama announced in June is greenhouse gas emission rules for existing power plants, which build on already proposed ones for new facilities.

Industry, Republicans and coal-state Democrats have slammed the rules, saying they’ll hike power rates on people who can’t afford it. They also worry about increased costs for businesses in a shaky economy.

Environmentalists, green groups and most Democrats praise the rules, saying they’ll decrease healthcare costs by improving air and water quality. They also say the regulations will help slow the effects of climate change.