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WASHINGTON - After only three days of debate, the Senate's most extensive climate change legislation sputtered to a halt Friday as Democratic leaders pulled it following an unsuccessful attempt to end a filibuster.
The 500-page bill, whose cosponsors included Minnesotans Norm Coleman, a Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 65 percent in the next four decades.
Although it got an enthusiastic and bipartisan greeting on the Senate floor early in the week, the 48-36 vote Friday to end the filibuster and move the bill to a vote was 12 shy of the 60 needed. But even if the measure's supporters had mustered the 60 votes, they almost surely could not have amassed the two-thirds needed to override President Bush's promised veto of the bill.
Coleman was absent from the vote because of a meeting with Ford Motor Co. officials in Detroit, where he was lobbying to keep Ford's St. Paul plant open, but he said he would have voted in favor of the bill.
"I firmly believe it is imperative that we act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address our dependence on foreign energy, in a way that protects families from higher energy prices at home and the pump," he said in a statement.
In addition to Coleman, 15 other senators were absent. Six of them -- including presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain -- backed the bill, supporters said. Senate Democrats said that showed the measure had majority support and signaled the Senate's willingness to work toward a climate bill in the future.
Klobuchar was among 39 Democrats, seven Republicans and two independents who voted to end the filibuster; four Democrats joined 32 Republicans in voting against it.
Said Klobuchar: "I am disappointed in what happened, but I think there is some silver lining. This really was a debate we needed to have in this country and in the Senate, in a serious way."
Opponents of the bill cited estimates that it would bring increases in gas prices of up to 53 cents a gallon at a time when prices are soaring. Strong emissions caps also stirred some critics, who worried about complicated regulations for many U.S. industries.
Doug Tiffany, a University of Minnesota applied economics research fellow, said a provision establishing a national registry of carbon emissions, authored by Klobuchar, would be one of the most effective pieces of future legislation. "What we will end up with is a new currency, and that will be the way to quantify greenhouse gases and come to some agreements on how to do the accounting to measure improvements," he said.
Elizabeth Wilson, who teaches energy and environmental policy at the university's Humphrey Institute, said the bill started discussion about global warming that will lead to needed regulations. She said Minnesota would particularly benefit from new industries, jobs and research opportunities created by a focus on global warming.
Emily Kaiser • 202-408-2723