Republicans: We Stand By Our Distortion of MIT Study

April 2, 2009 9:53 a.m.

Republicans won’t be changing their story on the cost of climate change legislation anytime soon. I just spoke with Michael Steel, spokesman for John Boehner, about the letter the House Minority Leader received from M.I.T. scientist John Reilly. By way of background, Reilly wrote to Boehner yesterday and gently informed him that he and other Republicans had “misrepresented in recent press releases” an M.I.T. study, which estimated that a cap and trade program would likely cost the average family $340 per year. The GOP is claiming, based on the same study, that the legislation would cost the average family $3,128 per year.

“We stand by our analysis,” said Steel.Steel says the GOP’s claim is based on the Obama budget proposal, which doesn’t propose rebating cap-and-trade revenues directly to consumers (i.e. writing a flat check to every tax payer).

Instead, his proposal contemplated rebating $64 billion a year through a payroll tax cut.

But, the Republicans say, Senate Democrats have suggested using cap-and-trade revenue to pay for health care reform. In reality, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has quashed that idea.

At any rate, the Obama budget proposal did not contain any legislative details–the numbers were early estimates, and the exact terms of a cap-and-trade bill will be hammered out by Congress.

So, speaking of Congress, I asked Steel whether the GOP would revisit their contention if the Waxman-Markey House climate change legislation we reported on earlier this week provided for a revenue rebate. Steel said, “We would obviously have to change the way we discuss the proposal…. We’ll deal with the facts in each case as it arises.”

And then there’s the Senate. I asked Steel if he could comment on an amendment to the Senate budget resolution, authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, which passed on Tuesday. It provides that cap-and-trade revenues will be used to forestall “increasing electricity or gasoline prices or increasing the overall burden on consumers.”

“I don’t work in the Senate,” said Steel.

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