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Kerry-Boxer Climate Bill Passes Senate Committee

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer and nine other Democrats passed the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733) out of committee yesterday. It was an important step for the bill to eventually reach the floor, but was it a risky move?

After a week of hearings and another week of debate, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The bill will endure debate and markup in other key committees before it can go to the floor for a full vote in the Senate.

Chairwoman Barbara Boxer pushed the bill out of committee without the support of some Democrats and moderate Republicans. Their votes will be critical, when and if the bill arrives on the floor, to reach 60 votes.

Democratic Senator Max Baucus voted against the climate legislation, and fellow Democrat Tom Carper did not vote. Baucus's demands were not met in committee and they are sure to arise again as the debate moves forward. Baucus is Chairman of the Finance Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture panel.

Ranking Republican James Inhofe wanted the U.S. EPA to conduct a more thorough economic analysis before committee members voted on the cap-and-trade legislation. In hearings last week, the head of the EPA told the committee that the complete analysis would take a weeks to complete. Several moderate Republicans supported Inhofe's demands.

In the run-up to Copenhagen next month, the world is carefully scrutinizing this bill -- including its progress through the complex legislative system -- as a gauge of America's sincerity about fighting global warming. Passing S. 1733 out of this committee visibly moves the bill along its path to becoming law. There will be several more opportunities for opposing Senators to influence the bill's measures and limits.

The corresponding American Clean Energy and Security Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. If S. 1733 passes the Senate, then a common-ground version of the bill must pass both chambers of Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is optimistic.

"Because there is much common ground between this legislation and the American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House earlier this year, we have a strong foundation for progress" Pelosi said. "I look forward to working with the Senate to send historic and transformative clean energy legislation to President Obama for his signature into law."