The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee late Wednesday voted out legislation to restrict greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, laying the groundwork for a major fight between Democrats and Republicans on the floor next year.

By 11-8, the bill (S. 2191) was approved, with Democrats and Independents on the committee voting in favor of it and only one Republican — Sen. John Warner of Virginia, one of the bill’s sponsors — supporting it. The other sponsor of the legislation is Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).

The measure proposes to cut U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 19% below the 2005 level in 2020 and by as much as 63% below the 2005 level in 2050, according to the sponsors.

Democrats fought back efforts by Republicans to make substantive changes to the bill Wednesday. Most of the GOP amendments were defeated along party lines or were withdrawn to be considered when the bill reaches the floor, while Democratic amendments — which were more minor in nature — had a more favorable outcome (see Daily GPI, Dec. 6).

A number of the Republican amendments addressed the potential economic impact of the bill on energy consumers, as well as the potential adverse effects on natural gas supply. Republicans also were concerned about the impact to the economy if developing countries, such as China and India, refuse to follow the U.S. lead in reducing carbon emissions.

A committee spokesperson said the bill was not expected to make it to the Senate floor until sometime next year.

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