Imagine if the Senate decided it was going to overhaul the health care system by simply drafting legislation and passing it without complete analysis from any health care professionals or economists. What if we passed a bill without knowing the cost, the impact on families and small businesses, or whether or not premiums or taxes would go up? You'd probably think we all ought to find new work.
Surprisingly, a Senate committee took a similarly concerning step last week on the issue of cap-and-trade--legislation that would make you pay additional fees for turning on the lights or running the dishwasher. The Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which has the lead on the bill in the Senate, approved its 1,000-page bill last week even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was not given enough time to conduct an analysis. It baffles me how the Committee could support this far-reaching legislation without knowing how it will impact the very people we serve and our economy as a whole.
The EPW bill has been fishy from the start. When it was first introduced, it included hundreds of blanks and draft text, which made any sort of real analysis impossible. They later filled in the blanks and sent it to EPA, the agency that will be primarily charged with implementing its provisions. EPA did not respond with an analysis because it was given too tight of a deadline. Instead, it offered a 30-page, self-described "paper" with a "discussion" about the potential impact of the legislation.
Think about that. This legislation will significantly impact input costs for businesses, production costs for farmers and ranchers, and electricity and fuel prices for us all. EPA employs many economists and other experts with the capability of telling us specifically how each of these areas will be impacted by a cap-and-trade bill. And yet, the EPW Committee neglected to take advantage of their expertise in favor of hurrying a bill through the approval process. This was disappointing and fell far short of being a thoughtful way to proceed on a bill of such expansive impact.
I don't mean to raise too much alarm--the bill was only passed out of one committee and has yet to come to the Senate floor. But how can the rest of the Senate be expected to make an informed decision on how they are going to vote when the EPW Committee itself did not have the benefit of complete analysis before they voted on the bill?
This is about taking a careful approach to legislation that will overhaul our country's energy future and will affect every single American. This is about asking the right questions. It's unfortunate that the process has gotten this far without a full economic analysis. The American people want and deserve our thoughtfulness on this and all issues.