US Republican introduces bill calling for carbon tax

WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - A Republican lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill on Monday calling for a carbon tax, saying he hoped the legislation would at the very least renew a U.S. debate on climate change that has languished for a decade.

Representative Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax committee who faces a tough re-election bid in Florida, said the legislation, called the "Market Choice Act," enjoys small but growing support among Republicans, who he said have been known for their "knee-jerk" rejection of carbon tax proposals in recent years.

The measure is sure to fail in the Republican-controlled House. But Curbelo, speaking at a Washington forum on Monday, remained upbeat.

"I truly believe that one day this bill, or legislation similar to it, will become law," Curbelo said.

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Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida)
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Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 10: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is interviewed in his Longworth Building office on January 10, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during his visit to US Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla) Campaign Headquarters on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Miami. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 7: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., walks through Statuary Hall in the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Colombian president Alvaro Uriba, center, raises his arms with U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, left, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as Uribe addresses the mostly Colombian crowd on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at Mondongo's Colombian Restaurant in Doral, Fla. (C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 06: Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Ann Wagner, R-Mo., leave a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on September 6, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Dr. Vivian Obeso, in charge of FIU's Simulation Center, from left, College of Medicine Dean John Rock, Maruchi Mendez, mother of Ramiro 'Toti' Mendez, and Congressman Carlos Curbelo watch Obeso perform a test on the 'Harvey doll' in the new Ramiro 'Toti' Mendez Cardiopulmonary Simulation Suite at FIU's College of Medicine on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), flanked by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill after their weekly party conference meeting on June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. The meeting came one day after a GOP win in the special election in Georgia as Republican Karen Handel defeated Democratic Jon Ossoff. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) talks to reporters as Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) talks with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) following the weekly House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan and the GOP leadership said that tax cuts and reforms are their priority and they hope to get legislation out of the House by the Thanksgiving holiday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) poses for a picture with his daughter Sylvie while she makes a funny face during the first session of the 114th Congress in the House Chambers January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Today Congress convened its first session of the 114th Congress with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 4: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., listens during the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on 'State of American Schools and Workplaces: Expanding Opportunity in America's Schools and Workplaces' on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is interviewed in the Capitol Visitor Center before a freshman orientation meeting, November 13, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 21: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., listens during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on 'An Examination of FEMA's Limited Role in Local Land Use Development Decisions' on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) poses for a picture with his daughter Sylvie while she makes a funny face during the first session of the 114th Congress in the House Chambers January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Today Congress convened its first session of the 114th Congress with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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"It will spark an important debate about investing in our country's infrastructure, the way we tax and what to do to protect the environment," he said.

The bill garnered at least one Republican co-sponsor, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick. Curbelo and Fitzpatrick are among 17 House Republicans who in March 2017 introduced a resolution that acknowledged the negative impact of climate change.

Curbelo said his legislation would exceed the carbon reduction goals of the Paris climate change pact by imposing a levy of $24 per metric ton on industrial carbon-dioxide emissions, beginning in 2020 and rising annually. It would replace existing taxes on gasoline and aviation fuel, and put the point of taxation on coal mines, refineries and gas processing plants.

President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord in June 2017.

Curbelo said the tax would generate $700 billion in revenue over a decade for infrastructure investments. The bill would also impose a moratorium on U.S. regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions.

The legislation represents a small but meaningful shift for Republicans on climate politics, driven in part by candidates in swing states like Florida where hurricanes and floods make no distinction between Republicans and Democrats.

Many Republicans supported a climate bill 10 years ago. But it died in the Senate. Since then, Republicans, including Trump, have largely stood firm on two positions: cutting taxes and opposing climate legislation.

Last week, the House voted 229-180 to approve a resolution expressing "the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy."

Curbelo and five other Republicans opposed the measure. A seventh chose not to support the resolution by voting "present." Curbelo intends to discuss his bill with the 86-member bipartisan House Climate Solutions caucus, which includes 42 other Republicans.

"We're seeing trends in the House that should give us hope," said Curbelo. (Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)

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