Senate ends debate on landmark climate bill
Talks on a first-ever climate change bill were effectively quashed in the US Senate Friday as Democrats failed in an effort to bring the legislation to a vote, likely putting off significant US action on global warming until next year, dpa reported.
The Climate Security Act, which would have introduced a cap-and- trade system and imposed limits on greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming, has been the subject of a contentious debate among legislators since Monday.
Republicans strongly opposed the bill on the grounds that it would harm an already sluggish US economy, further raise surging petrol prices and cost jobs. Democrats said the costs were being exaggerated and argued the price of inaction on climate change was far higher.
Republican Party leaders in the Senate regularly obstructed discussions with a series of procedural measures throughout the week. On Wednesday they forced a full reading of the 492-page bill, which took nearly 10 hours.
The Senate voted 48-36 Friday to end debate on the legislation and bring it to a vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed to prevent Republicans from pushing an endless discussion - known as a filibuster - on the floor of the Senate.
Democrats put on a brave face following the vote, saying the groundwork had been laid for the legislation to come up in a more friendly climate in 2009.
"What happened here today in the United States Senate is, indeed, the laying of the foundation for a new president to be able to move rapidly to be able to get this done," said Senator John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential candidate.
Few proponents had expected the climate bill to pass this year, despite some cross-party support. President George W Bush, who opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, had threatened to veto the initiative should it have reached his desk.
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have both advocated tougher action on global warming and support a cap-and- trade system, which allows companies to buy and sell pollution allowances allocated to them by the government.
Environmental groups, which mostly approved of the bill, are hoping for better results next year but expressed satisfaction that discussions on the issue had at least taken place.
"This week's debate showed that the terms of debate have shifted. Apart from a couple of remaining skeptics, there was no challenge to the broad scientific consensus on climate change," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
"These are extraordinarily complex issues and it will take many more hours of debate before Congress works through them. But this is the right debate and it's now well under way," she said.