WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Thursday clashed over what impact climate change legislation would have on U.S. employment and American consumers.
With the economy struggling, Democratic lawmakers have touted legislation establishing a system to cap greenhouse gas emissions as a way to bolster the economy.
“When we unleash the American innovative spirit, we will drive economic growth and create jobs and whole new industries here at home,” Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer said at a hearing.
Republicans, however, have strongly contested these claims, characterizing so called “cap and trade” bills as a threat to economic recovery that would push companies to other countries and force consumers to pay more to use energy.
“My fear is that what the recession and faulty management decisions did to the auto industry, the U.S. Congress will do intentionally to the rest of Midwest manufacturing — kill U.S. jobs and drive many of them overseas to China,” said Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri.
The House of Representatives narrowly passed a climate change bill last month that aims to lower carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Democratic leaders in the Senate have pushed back the timeline for introducing a similar bill in the chamber until September.
Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, a Democrat, said the extra time will give lawmakers more time to craft a better bill.
“We have this extra two months, it’s been almost a gift. We need to put it to good use,” Carper said.
He said Democrats could possibly attract more support from moderate Republicans by doing more to promote nuclear power in the legislation.
“I think it’s important for us to remember that nuclear energy is carbon free and that there is an expanded role for nuclear,” Carper said.
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Jim Marshall