This vote was on a motion to instruct conferees on the fiscal 2010 budget resolution to include a requirement that future legislation not increase the cost of domestic energy production, energy costs for domestic industries or families, and not damage U.S. business’ global competitiveness.
David Vitter, R-La., who made the motion, said the motion would ensure that the budget legislation would not increase the cost of producing energy from domestic sources, would not increase energy costs for businesses and would not harm U.S. competitiveness overseas.
Vitter’s motion is keyed to a proposal put forth by President Obama that would implement a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions that would raise $646 billion in revenues over 10 years. A “cap-and-trade” system would basically cap the amount of climate change-affecting pollution that an industry could emit, and then set up an “emissions allowances” system whereby industries that need to purchase more than their cap can buy allowances from those who fall below their cap. Republicans have started referring to the plan as an “energy tax,” arguing that it would drive up costs for consumers.
“At a gut level, this is very simple. New taxes kill jobs. Now is not the time to impose these new taxes on the economy, including the oil and gas industry. New taxes would hurt workers by extending the recession and by depressing job creation just as, hopefully, an economic recovery in the next several months starts to gain a foothold,” Vitter said. “This is not brain surgery. We know from history, from practice, that higher taxes in this sector result directly in less domestic energy, and restrained supplies lead to higher energy costs for consumers too. So in today's economy, that would stifle recovery and make Americans more dependent on foreign oil and natural gas.”
These “motions to instruct” are intended to provide guidance to the conferees on a bill (conferees are members of the House and Senate who meet to hammer out the two chambers’ differences on a bill). Motions to instruct are not binding on conferees, and as such mostly serve as a platform from which lawmakers can talk about a range of topics, or to put the majority of the chamber on record as endorsing an idea that bears on the conference. The motion was made to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2010. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
No one spoke directly against Vitter’s motion, but some Democrats have typically countered these arguments against Obama’s energy plan by suggesting that the revenues gained from such a plan would be reinvested into clean and green technologies that would create new, sustainable jobs that would enable the U.S to stay competitive across the globe. Other Democrats, particularly those from coal-producing states, have stood with Republicans when it comes to concerns over what such a shift in energy policy could mean for jobs in their states.
The motion was agreed to 63-30. Every Republican present voted for the motion. Of Democrats present, 24 voted for the motion and 29 voted against it, including most progressive senators. The end result is that the measure went forward with language instructing conferees on a budget resolution to include a requirement that the resolution not increase energy production costs, energy costs for industry or families, and not decrease U.S. business’ global competitiveness.