As European tax looms, a border fee draws bipartisan focus

Roll Call
April 12, 2023
By Benjamin J. Hulac

On both sides of Capitol Hill, there is budding interest in implementing taxes on carbon-intensive goods that enter the U.S., though Democrats and Republicans tend to be interested for different reasons.

In the Senate, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy is writing a preliminary bill, expected in a few months, to place a fee on foreign products brought into the country that are made with more pollution than similar American products.

Republicans Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware are broadly supportive of such a concept, generally called a carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Greg Bertelsen, CEO of the Climate Leadership Council, an advocacy group that supports carbon pricing, said the origins of Republicans’ interest in carbon border adjustment tools typically stems from economic or trade reasons, while the climate upside is secondary.

For Democrats in Congress, it’s often the reverse. No matter the topic that piqued other members’ interest, the climate reduction benefits align with their agenda, Bertelsen said by phone.

“There’s not perfect overlap at this very moment,” Bertelsen said. “I think the next step in this, we’ll see probably partisan approaches, Republican approaches and Democratic approaches, and then we’ll see whether there’s overlap.”

He added: “But I think everybody who’s in this space sees that there’s a big opportunity down the road for bipartisanship.”