The Senate bill split the difference: It proposed reducing greenhouse-gas emissions 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. At the heart of the plan is a system to trade emissions permits to meet the cap and a consumer tax relief fund to ease the impact on American families.
"This is a landmark day," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee after the 48-to-36 vote on Friday. In addition to the 48 senators voting to move forward on the global-warming bill, six absent senators sent letters expressing support.
Together, the vote and letters mark the first time a majority of the US Senate has endorsed mandatory action on global warming. "The Clean Air Act took 10 years. This will not take 10 years," Senator Boxer said.
"I think people around the world are going to be greatly encouraged by the fact that 54 members of the United States Senate said they want to support a response to global warming – a real mandatory response," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut, who, with Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia, is a cosponsor of the bill. Sixty votes were needed to ensure a final vote on the bill.