WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a vote on a bill that would cut greenhouse gas emissions across the economy, but senators backing the measure said they'd keep working to get a stronger version ready for the next president.
Fifty-four senators favored moving ahead with the measure, including presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama, but 60 votes were needed. The actual vote was 48-36 because McCain, Obama and four others who indicated support were not present to vote.
"We have kept this alive for this presidential race," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a sponsor of the bill. "This now becomes a bigger issue, because it's clear that a majority of the Congress wants to act."
Boxer said she'd start next week speaking to senators who wanted to slash greenhouse gas emissions but didn't agree with all the proposals in the more than 490-page Climate Security Act. "That was the process we had hoped to follow on the floor, you know, sitting down with members, working out their amendments," she said.
The bill would set limits on the pollution contributing to global warming and create a market for mandatory pollution permits that would reward companies that pollute less. Proceeds from the permits would go to rebates to help consumers, transitional help for companies dependent on fossil fuels, support for cleaner technologies and help to communities that must adapt to problems created by warming.
When the Senate started work on the bill on Monday, President Bush issued a statement saying he'd veto it. In the next days, Senate Republicans repeated the president's views that the legislation would amount to huge new taxes and higher gas prices.
Several Republicans cited an Environmental Protection Agency study that forecast the bill would raise gasoline prices 53 cents per gallon between now and 2030, or about 2 cents per year. A leaked Republican memo said they'd attack the bill by tying it to high gas prices.
Boxer argued that the bill would move America away from dependence on foreign oil and cut the cost of driving by lowering demand for gasoline and encouraging the development of cleaner technologies.