Republicans Plan to Form Counter-Delegation at Climate Conference

A GOP counter-delegation is forming to undermine the Obama administration's work on an international climate change agreement in Copenhagen, warning that the president is poised to make commitments he can't keep and drawing heightened attention to controversial leaked e-mails.

At least a half-dozen Republican senators and representatives are planning to head to Denmark next week, as part of the overall U.S. congressional delegation, which includes plenty of Democrats as well.

But the Republicans have a markedly different agenda.

"Truth squad," is how Sen. Jim Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey described the GOP team. He called the Democratic visitors to the conference the "doom squad."

The Oklahoma Republican and ardent global warming skeptic plans to head to Denmark along with Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and John Barrasso of Wyoming. On the House side, Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Joe Barton of Texas and Darrell Issa of California are tentatively planning to attend.

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Dempsey said some in the delegation plan to hold a counter-press conference next week, complete with scientist "skeptics." Others plan to take part in the official meetings with the rest of the delegation.

Foremost, they plan to make the case to other international delegations that the U.S. Congress needs to be on board before any binding global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions is struck.

"There should not be any binding legal agreement until Congress has had a chance to weigh in," Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said. "It's easy to ignore someone when they're 3,000 miles away. It's different when they're right there in front of you."

Dempsey said his boss will go further than Issa and declare in Copenhagen that the Senate will not the pass the climate change bill.

Climate legislation that passed the House earlier in the year is stuck in the Senate. Even though Congress has not passed the bill, President Obama is expected to call for a cut to emissions by a range of 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 -- goals similar to those in the House-passed bill.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, downplayed any Democratic concerns over a U.S. counter-delegation in Denmark.

"It's clear from the vote in the House in June that there are differences," Hammill said. "Obviously we want to go into Copenhagen and learn as much as possible."

Hammill also indicated that a robust U.S. congressional delegation in Copenhagen is also not a sure thing. While many members on both sides of the aisle want to go, the leadership needs to ensure House business is taken care of before the trip.

"We have to see if we can get everything done," he said.

At the conference, the Republican delegation also plans to make noise about leaked e-mails out of a British university research center that appear to show scientists discussing the manipulation of climate data.

Despite the GOP outcry, the Obama administration argues that the leaked e-mails are much ado about very little.

Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said Monday in Copenhagen that the United States is not expecting any legally binding treaty in Denmark this month, but will pursue a "political arrangement" that could lead to one in the future. And he said the e-mail controversy should have "virtually no effect at all."

Administration officials argue that the science is unassailable and that there are economic reasons to pursue alternative energy regardless.

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled Monday that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a threat to public health, paving the way for the agency to potentially regulate emissions on its own, without Congress' authorization.

On Tuesday, Sensenbrenner called the contents evidence of "scientific fascism" and urged Obama to tone down his rhetoric on an international agreement while in Denmark. He also wrote to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on Monday to demand that researchers who authored e-mails and documents that demonstrate climate change data were manipulated should not be allowed to participate in the latest report written by the U.N. panel.'s Judson Berger contributed to this report.