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Forum and wire reports, Published June 11 2010

Minnesota, North Dakota senators vote against Clean Air Act amendment

WASHINGTON - In a heavily party-line vote, the U.S. Senate voted Thursday against approving a controversial amendment to the Clean Air Act that would have restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s action on regulating greenhouse gases and would have overturned scientific findings on the gases’ potential danger.

The measure, sponsored by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, failed by a 53-47 vote.

Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and North Dakota Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, all Democrats, each voted in opposition to the bill.

Franken and Klobuchar said they did not like that the amendment would overturn the scientific findings.

Dorgan and Conrad agreed and said they instead supported a bill that they’re co-sponsoring, which would restrict for at least two years any EPA action on regulating greenhouse gases.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., predicted the vote would “increase momentum to adopt comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year.”

But Obama still needs 60 votes to advance his energy agenda, and Democrats don’t have them yet. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the vote made clear that a majority in the Senate back either a delay or an outright ban on “the Obama EPA’s job-killing, global-warming agenda.”

Republicans, and the six Democrats who voted with them to advance the resolution, said Congress, not bureaucrats, should be in charge of writing climate change policy. They said the EPA rules would drive up energy costs and kill jobs.

But Democrats, referring frequently to the Gulf oil spill, said it made no sense to undermine efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.

The effort to block the rules “is an attempt to bury our heads in the sand and ignore reality,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Obama said the vote was another reminder of the need to pass legislation to reduce the country’s reliance on oil. The White House had issued a veto threat this week, saying the resolution would block efforts to cut pollution that could harm people’s health and well-being.