The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman vowed today to move a major global warming bill through her panel before a December U.N. summit in Denmark aimed at concluding international climate-treaty talks.
"Copenhagen is December," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters. "That's why I said we'll have a bill out of this committee by then."
Boxer revealed her rough schedule for Senate committee action on cap-and-trade legislation as House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) gears up for a markup of his own global warming measure before the Memorial Day recess. The two California Democrats have not yet begun coordination, Boxer said.
"When it comes to these bills, we're going to write our own bill, and he's going to write his own bill," Boxer said of Waxman. "And we'll see where it goes. As far as coordinating and having exact legislation, we haven't decided."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pledged a floor vote this year on climate legislation, the first ever for the House. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last month that he would wait for word from Boxer and President Barack Obama before making any plans for floor action on climate legislation.
Boxer discussed her timing for climate legislation during a press conference in the Senate EPW hearing room in which she released six broad principles that will go into the global warming bill.
All of the Democrats on the Senate EPW Committee, as well as Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, support her concepts, Boxer said, which include regular updates on the policy to reflect climate science, promoting state and local government efforts, and using the new environmental program's revenue for adaptation and deployment of clean energy technologies.
Pressed by reporters for specifics, Boxer acknowledged that the pared-back legislation she envisions is a reflection of complaints raised by other rank-and-file Democratic senators during last year's push for a cap-and-trade bill.
"We want to get a bill out there that is straightforward, that doesn't have so much weight that it sinks," Boxer said.
Boxer added that she could move to mark up legislation quickly given her committee's large Democratic majority, but she would wait for now to build up support.
"We could get a bill out of the committee tomorrow," she said. "I don't have a problem because you see who's on my committee and how they feel. I want to get a bill out of there that every member has a stake in. It will take a while. It could be weeks, not months, but it will be before the end of this year."
'Science will guide us'
Asked about the push in some quarters for a carbon tax, Boxer said she is open to hearing ideas but would remain focused on cap-and-trade legislation. She also would not commit when questioned about including emission reduction targets for more conventional air pollutants, such as mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
Boxer sidestepped a question about whether recent scientific warnings about global warming meant she would push to go beyond Obama's campaign pledge to bring U.S. emissions in 2020 down to 1990 levels. "We're not here today to talk the exact numbers, where the targets are," she said. "But we are here to say that science will guide us, period."
During last year's climate debate, Boxer got significant help from Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Virginia Republican John Warner. Lieberman is now working with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on their own version of a cap-and-trade bill. Warner has retired from the Senate.
Boxer said she would welcome the McCain-Lieberman contribution, and she also insisted she would have GOP co-sponsors when her bill starts moving. "Oh, I think so," she said. "I know so. I know there will be because we had some last time. But I'm not going to name names."
As for last year's Lieberman-Warner measure, Boxer said some pieces would survive -- but she would not identify those pieces.
"Our last bill was our trial run," she said. "It has some fabulous things in it. It also got a little bit weighted down by some of the details in it. We're starting fresh. We'll take the best of it."