By Carolyn Lochhead
San Francisco Chronicle
House Republicans, with help from 12 Democrats, on Friday passed an amendment to ban a carbon tax, despite zero chances that such a policy would be enacted any time soon, and public statements by the White House that it opposes such a tax.
The House is leaving town for a five-week August recess having failed to pass appropriations bills, a farm bill, or make any progress on immigration.
The amendment by Louisiana conservative firebrand Steve Scalise was part of a bill called the REINS act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny), which would require Congressional approval of any new agency rule, tying the government in knots. It also has no chance of being enacted.
The amendment would include in the definition of a major rule, “any rule that implements or provides for the imposition or collection of a tax on carbon emissions.”
The Hill newspaper said the Koch brothers, who own the largest privately held oil business, hired top former GOP aides, including a former aide to House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), to lobby against a carbon tax.
The amendment reflects an effort to recast Obama’s move to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants as a carbon tax.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is sponsoring a partly refundable carbon tax with Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, is exploring options as well. There is interest among Republicans who are not holding office, top Republican economists, former Secretary of State and Treasury George Shultz, and at least one think tank, R Street. Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform claimed the vote “showed that 176 House Democrats Support Obama-imposed carbon tax.”
Some oil industry interests want to quash the idea of a tax, which, a) comports with free market principles, and b) could be refunded entirely to consumers or be used to reduce other taxes, before it gets any legs. Citizens Climate Lobby is trying to generate grass-roots support.