Sen. Jim Inhofe lost his battle with Democrats over climate change legislation, but his ultimate victory might be in view.
Democrats on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill last week that would require a 20 percent cut in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, mainly through a cap-and-trade system.
Led by Inhofe, Republicans boycotted the vote, claiming the legislation’s cost hadn’t been fully analyzed by the Environmental Protection Agency. No matter. Democrats had more than enough votes to prevail with or without them present.
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The full Senate will be different. There Inhofe’s argument — that emissions targets essentially returning the United States to 1977 levels could cripple the economy — likely will find bipartisan traction. Especially after elections in New Jersey and Virginia in which independents turned sharply away from Democrats and most voters said they were worried about the economy.
With unemployment topping 10 percent last week and the economic recovery looking soft, a cap-and-trade system that a number of experts say would result in taxes on nearly every aspect of life in the United States — without much actual effect on climate — will get a chilly reception from Senate moderates.