Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 28, 2009

CENTER-RIGHT DEMS THROWING COLD WATER ON CLIMATE BILL.... An important cap-and-trade bill has already passed the House. It's been pending in the Senate for about five months now, but proponents note that the policy has some pretty compelling selling points, including the fact that it caps emissions, combats global warming, reduces pollution, helps create new jobs in a burgeoning sector, and lowers the federal budget deficit, all at the same time.

From a purely political perspective, it also worth noting that recent polls from McClatchy, CNN, Politico, Pew Research Center, and WaPo/ABC all show the same thing -- a majority of Americans support congressional approval of a cap-and-trade bill.

With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that center-right Democrats are already going to great lengths to make sure climate legislation doesn't even come up for a vote in the Senate.

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year.

"I am communicating that in every way I know how," says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who've told the White House or their own leaders that it's time to jettison the centerpiece of their party's plan to curb global warming.

The article includes quotes from several conservative Democrats, all of whom said they'd like the Senate to just skip the climate bill and focus on the economy. Besides, the thinking goes, lawmakers are just kind of tired.

To put it mildly, that's not a compelling pitch. For one thing, policymakers have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Getting health care done -- if health care gets done -- doesn't mean taking a year off.

But more importantly, while a focus on the economy makes sense, there's no reason lawmakers can't embrace a climate bill as part of a larger economic strategy: "Many utilities, investors, and even some consumer companies like Starbucks and Nike believe cap-and-trade will unleash a flood of investments in energy efficiency and renewable fuels like wind, solar, and nuclear power."

This needs to get done, and if the Senate takes a pass on 2010, it's hard to imagine when the next available opportunity might be. It's not as if this will get easier after Republicans make likely gains in the midterms -- it's a party dominated by a head-in-the-sand crowd that prefers to pretend science and data aren't real.

Steve Benen 9:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Senator Landrieu is an oil industry spokesperson. Let's just ignore her OK.

The Climate Bill IS focussing on the economy, the economy that will actually benefit Americans, not the "W" "Zero" economy Krugman describes in today's column.

Posted by: robert on December 28, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

As with HCR, the powers behind the status quo will fight tooth-and-nail against anything that saps their established income flow. Thus, the minions of the status quo interests who are in positions of influence and power in the government must put forth various rationales and bites of truthiness to confuse and mislead the public to support keeping things as they are. Facts and logic be damned, per their usual M.O. Because death panels and killing Grandma worked so well, I wonder what nifty slogans and patriotic magnets they'll think up this time as this fight gets in gear...

Posted by: terraformer on December 28, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Having the wit to compromise only rises from the dead if it can be shown to provide a profit . The idealist in the political game are focusing on personal ideals , nepotism , profit , and re-election . It is great country for those don't need to shoulder a fair and proportionate share . Fair and Proportionate , the powerful take and the powerless watch the powerful decide .

Posted by: FRP on December 28, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

So is it time to primary Landrieu & co. yet?

Posted by: DocAmazing on December 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

If the health care bill has taught us anything, it's how to get to sixty votes in the senate. Following the health care model, here is what I propose:

A strict cap and trade policy, but the federal government offers to reimburse private companies effected by the policy for 125% of costs for twenty years. As an additional bonus, all citizens are mandated to purchase products from effected companies or face a fine.

Also, the government pays Nebraska's utility bills in perpetuity.

Posted by: inkadu on December 28, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

If any of the (sort of) Democratic Senators are tired and want to take some time off -- without pay and use of their staffs -- then I'd be okay with that.

But people out here in the real world get up and go to work every day, whether we're tired or not. If we're lucky we get one week out of 52 off as paid vacation. Most people I know work unpaid overtime on top of it.

(Sort of) Democratic Senators who worried about getting re-elected should probably think about a different campaign strategy than whining about how hard they work.


Posted by: SteveT on December 28, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

From the Politico piece Steve referenced...

After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.

But even among Republicans who believe global warming is a problem, few -- if any -- other than Graham support an economy-wide cap and trade system.

Seems Congressional Dems have learned nothing from the health insurance debacle.

Posted by: beep52 on December 28, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

"Policymakers have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time."

Fixed: Policymakers OUGHT to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

From the HCR debacle, it's clear that what should be and what actually is the case are two different things.

Posted by: bdop4 on December 28, 2009 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

In the words of Ned Flanders' beatnik parents, "We've tried nothin' and we're all out of ideas!"

Posted by: norbizness on December 28, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

If any of the (sort of) Democratic Senators are tired and want to take some time off -- without pay and use of their staffs -- then I'd be okay with that.

yeah, and no using the excellent healthcare provider there in the capitol building. You know, the kind of "government run" high quality healthcare that they went out of their way to deny the rest of us.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 28, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

"If the health care bill has taught us anything, it's how to get to sixty votes in the senate. Following the health care model, here is what I propose:

A strict cap and trade policy, but the federal government offers to reimburse private companies effected by the policy for 125% of costs for twenty years. As an additional bonus, all citizens are mandated to purchase products from effected companies or face a fine.

Also, the government pays Nebraska's utility bills in perpetuity. "

-LOL--and then you'll have Ezra Klein and Nate Silver telling all of us stupid dirty hippies what a great deal it is and how we'll "improve on it later". As long as the bill that Obama signs says "climate change" it really doesn't matter what's in it at all. Truly inspirational.

On a more serious note, I think that maybe more can be accomplished by allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses, which Obama has already done and I do commend him for that.
I'd say that he should do as much as humanly possible without going through the Senate at this point. The question still remains, how much does he really want to do?

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 28, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

"...maybe more can be accomplished by allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses..." Allan Snyder at 11:16

Only until the next Republican administration decides to not enforce the EPA regs or reverses them. Dubya had a practice of putting people in charge of agencies who despised the very agencies they headed.

Posted by: beep52 on December 28, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Allan, tell me all of the sweeping economy-wide national legislation that *didn't* get improved over time, that was robust from the start. Go ahead. You're misreading Klein and Silver. Unlike the progblogosphere, they understand systemic roadblocks.

Systemic roadblocks are a reality. You can't wish them away.

Posted by: Jack B. Nimble on December 28, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kerry-Boxer HAS to be passed, and has to be passed well before COP-16 in Mexico.

No ifs, buts or hows.

Posted by: Ohioan on December 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

reward bad behavior, get more bad behavior.

Posted by: paul on December 28, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Being economically "realistic" is going to be our end.

We could do a lot with the wealth being confiscated by Wall Street and with our taxes being pissed away in Iraq and Afghanistan that is keeping this warped sense of realism in D.C. politicians.

Posted by: lou on December 28, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

All that has to be done is change the requirementof majority from 60 to 50. It only needs a memo. It's a tool Obama and H. Reid ignored throughout health care debaucle.I Doubt any Democrat will pay attention to this as the party is spineless; does not really want
America to move on ; just wants to back corporations just as it has with insurance and pharmaceutical companies. America needs to change, be competitive in the world; compete with China for global market of alternative energy but that won't stop Obama from not going with principle but continue with politics. Obama had a chance to point America in the right direction and he lost it with Health care . How competitve are Americans globally with this Health care deform? How competitive will be America with the Obama policy of giving everything to a select few Senators and the Americans be damned?

Posted by: MLJohnston on December 28, 2009 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

A strict cap and trade policy, but the federal government offers to reimburse private companies effected by the policy for 125% of costs for twenty years. As an additional bonus, all citizens are mandated to purchase products from effected companies or face a fine.

Pretty funny. But I'd still take it, especially if the mandated products were green or greener. Or everyone gets a coupon to buy a refillable water bottle and coffee cup and a handful of reusable grocery bags. That's just small-scale stuff but it adds up. (And I think the "reimbursement" idea is similar to how obsolescent power plants are handled.) Because money is essentially infinite, given a long enough time frame, and if we don't do _something_ about climate, we're straight-up fucked.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Correction:The Senate majority vote should be changed to 55 from 60 to help pass legislation.

Posted by: MLJohnston on December 28, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Besides, the thinking goes, lawmakers are just kind of tired.

I know the feeling, I'm tired of some of them as well. I'm going to guess the comment needs to be understood in a broader context, that they are tired of all the significant legislation that needs to be addressed in the face of even larger problems looming in the background. Eight years of W will do that to you.

Understanding full well that they have used up their best phrasing to justify straddling the fence between corporate interests and the good of the union. At some point, even "NO" will be ignored as these neanderthals wander off for book signing tours.

These tools are spent, replace them or get a better system in place.

Posted by: Kevin on December 28, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike the progblogosphere, they understand systemic roadblocks.

And unlike you smug, condescending jerks, I know that it isn't about "systemic roadblocks" or using them as an excuse to pass a giant corporate welfare bill.

Name one piece of sweeping healthcare or social welfare legislation that was "improved" upon that was nothing more than a transfer of taxpayer money to the same industry that caused a healthcare or social welfare catastrophe.
Go ahead, although it might require you to actually divert your eyes from their ignorant and condescending gaze.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 28, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Last night I was reading an article about integrated electrical transmission systems. This one was about Europe, but the same principles apply to the US. In their case, a fully integrated system where electricity generated by windmills along the North Sea and solar collection plants in southern Europe and North Africa supplied all the electricity that Europe needed from wind, sun and wave energy would obviate the need for fossil fuel because somewhere there would be electricity generated.

The point that was so great and applies here, though, is that constructing this web would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and would, in the end, be cheaper than continuing the way we are going now by a factor of several fold.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on December 28, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

But, gee, isn't this just the political reality? Aren't Obama and Reid powerless to change it?

That's what you've been singing for a while now. Why is it different now?

Aren't we SUPPOSED to deform our efforts and cringe in submission before the mighty Liebercrats?

Now I'm all confused.

Posted by: tatere on December 28, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you Texas Aggie @ 12:07 for that. And that IS the point. We should not be striving to overcorrect our failed economies to revert to where we were more stable than now, but move in a direction that has long lasting and positive results. Oil for energy purposes is dead. There are a lot of high tech jobs to be created in web or grid delivery systems not to mention generation. The problem is to untangle the relationships between oil and legislators like Landrieu, for example. Some time ago I read an article how China was going to deliver power from the western half to the eastern region...get this, through extremely high voltage, low current DC!

Posted by: Kevin on December 28, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Congratulations to the whitehouse and senate dems on appeasing Lieberman, obviously we're going to get a lot of bang for that buck.

So we can scratch off any meaningful health care reform and any meaningful climate change bill from possible accomplishments. Any others? Any guesses how Lieberman feels about EFCA?

And that is the only question isn't it? How does Lieberman feel about this issue, because the rest of the dems just don't have the balls to tell him to STFU.

Weakest. Supermajority. Ever.

Posted by: Tlaloc on December 28, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

The [primary problem really is the Senate filibuster. Unless the filibuster in the Senate is broken, very little reform of anything is going to happen. The filibuster is a parliamentary maneuver requiring at present 60 votes for cloture to be able to vote on a bill, nominee, whatever. However, it is no big secret that the filibuster can be broken (probably for good)by a 50 votes plus the VP. The nuclear option is perhaps the best known filibuster-breaking parliamentary maneuver (Google it to confirm this statement, if you doubt it's validity).

You think the Republicans would not have used the nuclear option in 2005 if what they wanted wasn't handed to them by a "Gang of 14?? [ They wanted a set of right-wing judges approved for Federal bench positions -- and they got most of what they wanted by threatening the nuclear option.] You think they wouldn't use it again to pass whatever once they again become a majority? Get Real. They may not be able to overturn everything, but they could sure do a lot of damage real fast.

If there are not 50 votes to end a filibuster, bills or amendments in 2010 to really improve health care reform, climate change, whatever, are essentially exercises in "pass inadequate bills and pronounce those bills as ground-breaking". And hope the American voters don’t notice. Voters on average may be generally uninformed, but they are not THAT dumb.

In health care and other issues, Obama and Senate Democrats and many Broderesque -bloggers constantly reinforce a meme that liberal or progressive Democrats are easily rolled by those making intransigent demands. This reinforces a long-standing meme that they are wimps, wusses, chumps-- pick your term. McCain, Coker, deMint and most Republicans may be batshit bonkers pushing insane ideologically-based solutions, but they appear much more willing to take a lot of flack to push their agenda. To coin a phrase, politics ain't beanbags. Voters consistently reject candidates they view as weak wimps, no matter what their ideology or personal heroism (Google McGovern, Carter, Kerry, Dukakis, etc).

Posted by: gdb on December 28, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

It's really funny that these center-right and conservative so-called "moderate" so-called "Democrats" keep demanding unpopular stuff and then wondering why they are unpopular. It must be the fault of the liberals!

Posted by: FreakyBeaky on December 28, 2009 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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