Climate Bill Not Expcted to Clear Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Republicans appeared ready to turn back an ambitious plan to reduce the risks of global warming after a week in which bipartisan bickering and political posturing seemed to drown out the environmental debate.

Supporters of a bill that would require greenhouse gases to be cut markedly and nudge the nation's energy priorities away from fossil fuels acknowledged privately Thursday that they don't have the votes to overcome strong opposition to the measure.

Even some Democrats shied away from supporting the legislation when it became clear that because of maneuvering by both sides they would not be able to get changes in the bill that they viewed as critical to their support.

President Bush has said he viewed the bill as a tax on Americans and he would veto it should it ever reach his desk.

In fact, it became increasingly clear as the week wore on that the climate bill - viewed by many environmentalists as historic and essential - was unlikely to survive the Senate, much less make it to the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled an early morning Friday vote to try to overcome a GOP filibuster, accommodating senators eager to depart Washington for the weekend. Some of the bill's supporters privately worried they might not get 50 votes, much less the 60 needed to keep the measure alive.

Leading sponsors of the bill already began looking toward next year with a new Congress and, more importantly, a new president, either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, both of whom favor mandatory steps to counter climate change.

"It's a road map for them," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., one of the bill's three primary sponsors, told reporters, acknowledging Thursday that the needed 60 votes to move the bill forward had not materialized.

The 492-page bill marked the Senate's first attempt to address global warming head on since widespread consensus has emerged in recent years among lawmakers - both Democratic and Republican - that man-made pollution is adversely changing the Earth's climate and must be addressed.

But critics of the bill said it threatened economic growth and would raise people's energy bills.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky argued that the bill's "cap and trade" approach to cutting carbon dioxide emissions would unleash "the largest restructuring of the American economy since the New Deal."

"It's a huge tax increase," he proclaimed even as the bill's supporters argued it actually would provide tax breaks for people who faced higher energy costs, and financial assistance to carbon intensive industries through a pollution allowance trading system.

One GOP senator after the other argued that people would be paying more for gasoline, words meant to hit home to motorists angry over having to pay $60 to $100 to fill their gas tanks.

"There is no increase in gas prices," Boxer insisted.

The measure would require power plants, refineries and factories to reduce their carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 19 percent by 2020 and by 71 percent by 2050. Along with capping emissions, it would allow companies to buy pollution allowances to meet the cap and ease the transition from fossil fuel.

But the legislation was in trouble from the start.

A GOP filibuster threat prevented Democrats from moving quickly at the beginning of the week to consider amendments. At midweek, McConnell stunned Democrats by forcing the reading of all 492 pages of the bill into the record - an almost unheard of move that took 8 1/2 hours.

McConnell said he did so because of a dispute over judicial nominations, but Reid saw it as obstruction aimed at stonewalling the bill. Reid responded by essentially blocking any Republican amendments and set an end-of-the-week deadline for a vote.

McConnell accused Reid of refusing to give the issue a full airing. "If this is the most important issue facing the planet, it is ludicrous to think we're going to do this in four days with no amendments," he complained.

Democrats countered that Republicans all along had sought to undermine the bill with filibusters, while politically posturing that they wanted a full debate.

"You can't have a more important issue to be dealing with on the floor of the Senate," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told reporters. Instead, he said, the deliberations had been "reduced to trickery and gimmicks and parliamentary games."

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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