House Republicans this week will vote to condemn taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, slamming the door on an idea that some members of their party have flirted with in the past.
The nonbinding resolution, sponsored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), lists numerous problems with a carbon tax, declaring, “It is the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”
The election-year proposal responds to years of pressure from Democrats and economists across the political spectrum who have endorsed the idea.
A carbon tax also has the backing of some conservatives, who argue it would be a simple way to reduce greenhouse gases without new regulations or more government.
Numerous think tanks, including the R Street Institute and the Niskanen Center, have been pressuring GOP lawmakers to endorse a carbon tax. The American Enterprise Institute held closed-door meetings in 2012 to get additional groups on board with little success.
But with the GOP broadly skeptical of climate change science and new taxes, Republican lawmakers have avoided endorsing a carbon tax, and the House’s resolution is meant to make clear where they stand.
“There are a few people out there who are trying to make the case that there’s growing support among conservatives or Republicans for a carbon tax,” said Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a fossil-fuel-backed advocacy group and an arm of the Institute for Energy Research.
“I think that the vote will answer that question. I don’t think there is,” he said. “There aren’t many issues around here that unite the Republicans more than energy issues.”
Scalise said a carbon tax would be regressive, hitting the poor the hardest. He told colleagues recently that the vote is also timed to respond to President Obama’s budget proposal this year for a $10.25 per barrel tax on crude oil to pay for transportation — something Republicans have blasted as a carbon tax in disguise.
“This resolution spells out the harmful impacts that a carbon tax would have on American families by making the energy we all rely on every day more expensive,” Scalise said in a letter to colleagues. “A carbon tax would intentionally increase the price of gasoline, natural gas, home heating oil, and electricity — driving up energy costs for families, reducing our nation’s GDP, and destroying American jobs.”