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GOP, Gore Face Off on Kyoto Deal

December 12, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a preview of the ratification battle to come, Republicans complained Thursday that the global warming treaty signed in Japan would let developing countries off too easily and send American jobs overseas.

Vice President Al Gore quickly said the Clinton administration would not send the treaty to the Senate unless some Third World nations agree to its terms.

``We will not submit this agreement for ratification until key developing nations participate in this effort,″ Gore said at a White House news conference. ``This is a global problem that will require a global solution.″

Meanwhile, President Clinton said skeptics must not be allowed to rule the debate.

``I see already, the papers are full of people saying, ’The sky is falling! The sky is falling!‴ Clinton said in Miami.

``Every time we’ve tried to improve the American environment in the last 25 or 30 years, somebody has predicted that it would wreck the economy. And the air is cleaner. The water’s cleaner. The food supply is safer,″ he said. ``So don’t believe the critics. Give us a chance to make the case.″

The White House will be doing a lot of that over the next year, during which industry opponents, Republicans and labor unions are certain to boost an already massive campaign against the treaty.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., sent a letter to Clinton Wednesday asking him not to sign the agreement until he consults with members of Congress who attended the conference.

``The very future of the United States is at stake,″ Gingrich wrote. ``As president, it is your responsibility to safeguard America’s interests, and so I strongly encourage you to meet with the delegation as soon as possible.″

As part of the pact, the United States would agree to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to 7 percent below 1990 levels by the years 2008-2012.

``The stakes are simply too high, environmentally, economically and morally, for us to allow the special interests to get in the way of the common interests of all humankind,″ Gore said.

The political stakes are high, too. Even before the United States joined 158 other nations in signing the agreement, congressional Republicans, business interests and many of the labor unions normally allied with Democrats named a list of problems they said would keep it from winning the 67 votes needed for Senate ratification.

Industries opposed to the agreement already have mounted a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that many Democrats have feared would sway public opinion against the treaty and the Clinton administration.

With the 1998 midterm elections approaching, the unions that could be critical in some states already have crossed swords with the White House over a bill to give ``fast track″ trade negotiation authority to the president.

Several Republicans made a point of aiming statements at traditional Democratic constituencies.

``This international treaty is bad for working people with manufacturing jobs, specifically those individuals in our coal, steel and automotive industries,″ said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

The next presidential election, still three years away, has played a prominent role in the treaty’s aftermath.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee accused Gore of using the treaty to distract voters from legal questions over his fund-raising practices as he gears up to run for president.

``It is clear that Al Gore is using the Kyoto gathering to develop an issue to exploit in his presidential bid in 2000,″ said Jim Nicholson.

One likely Republican presidential contender, Steve Forbes, blasted the administration for agreeing to a treaty he said would raise taxes and heating costs. The nation’s military, too, would be threatened because it would be required to cut back on its use of fuel, Forbes said.

``This would radically undermine U.S. sovereignty and our national security and is completely unacceptable,″ Forbes said in a statement. ``Who says socialism is dead? Diehard Marxists are green with envy at what the Clinton administration is trying to pull off.″

Frank Murkowski of Alaska was one of several Republican senators who declared the treaty ``dead on arrival.″

And Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia, though calling the treaty ``a major new beginning,″ said Thursday he opposes it. Should President Clinton sign it as scheduled next year, Byrd said, he would signal that it is acceptable without participation of developing nations.

``I hope that the president will not sign this agreement,″ Byrd said in the second statement. ``His signature could be misleading, misinterpreted and severely criticized.″

But Gore dismissed the criticism as coming from special interests and politicians who haven’t considered the big picture.

``The American people are ahead of the politicians where cleaning up the environment is concerned,″ Gore said. ``They want cleaner air, they want cleaner water, they want less pollution and they want new technology that creates new jobs and new businesses.″

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