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Tilting at Windmills

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January 21, 2010

MASSACHUSETTS PUTS CLIMATE BILL IN PERIL.... The House passed a climate bill months ago, but in the Senate, it's been an uphill climb. Efforts have been ongoing, however, and there was hope that the bill would come to the floor in the spring.

Those hopes were largely dashed by Massachusetts voters this week, who not only may have killed health care reform, but also imperiled a bill to address climate change. Bradford Plumer reports:

Brown's victory means Democrats are down yet another vote for any bill that curtails carbon-dioxide emissions. (Back when he was a state legislator, Brown voted for cap-and-trade, but he's long since reversed himself, and who knows if he'll actually tack leftward yet again to keep his seat.) Granted, a Senate climate bill was always going to require a handful of Republican votes, so the fact that Democrats no longer have a supermajority isn't, on its own, a fatal blow. But there's also the fact that a lot of swing senators like Evan Bayh are crawling into the fetal position right now and don't seem inclined to take up any major legislation.

So we'll see.

In the meantime, some conservative Dems -- the ones who aren't in a fetal position -- are poised to make efforts to combat global warming even more difficult. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been fighting to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate carbon emissions through the Clean Air Act. Yesterday, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) announced she is not only endorsing Murkowski's approach, but will help craft the language on what some have dubbed the "Dirty Air Act."

Advocates of addressing the climate crisis need every congressional ally and vote they can get. Regrettably, a narrow of majority of Massachusetts voters have made it significantly more likely that Congress won't address the problem at all. Proponents focused on solutions have vowed to "persist," but Massachusetts has made a difficult situation considerably worse.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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Is anyone else getting the sinking feeling that this Country isn't on the right side of history?

Posted by: Scott F. on January 21, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

This is what's really depressed me for the past day, far more than the fate of the health care bill. It will probably be several years, at least, before the political terrain for passing a cap-and-trade bill is as good as it is now.

And that's too long to wait.

I've got a son who's two and a half years old. I'd like to know how these 'centrist' Dems justify condemning him and the other kids he plays with at day care to living most of their lives in a world that's cooking.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 21, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

The bill was pretty worthless anyway and no more political capital should be wasted on it. Obama simply needs to let the EPA regulate CO2 as a pollutant. No, that's not a permanent fix (but then the Thugs could also perfectly well repeal a cap and trade law) but done right it could actually decrease emissions more in the near term.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 21, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

why steven, what a bright shiny distraction:

a national inquirer-type headline that "those people" in massachusetts are bringing the world to an end...

The main point is always this:

how fascinating it is that the Dims are all bi-partisan and honoring of the minority Repugnants' rights -- so that Corporate America always gets what it needs from Congress...

while, when the Repugnants are in power, they are all "fuck you" to the minority Dims... so that Corporate America always gets what it wants...

how interesting...

Posted by: neill on January 21, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't any climate bill dead?

I am amazed at how many people are convinced that global warming is a hoax even though they have no background to challenge the science.

I am amazed at how many people think nuclear power is a bad thing even though it produces virtually no C02.

Posted by: neil wilson on January 21, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK


Whimpering about how a 59-vote "minority" hamstrings the Senate democrats is incredibly weak sauce. This "problem" wouldn't exist at all if Reid were an effective leader of his caucus. Even with 59 votes, he still has the largest Senate majority in at least several decades. Why isn't he just kicking ass and pushing his party's agenda through?

The only thing stopping him is *him*. If he wanted to, he could kill or change the filibuster. He could refuse to honor the GOP's holds on bills and appointees. He could (ab)use the reconciliation process. He could enforce rigid party loyalty. He could easily do all these things. It's not that he can't, it's that he won't.

It makes me wonder whose side he's really on.

Posted by: Shade Tail on January 21, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK


Did you ever get the idea that all of this nonsense we endure everyday is some sort of live theater event designed to cover what is really going on behind closed doors?

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 21, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the evil people of Massachusetts have, by a narrow majority, thwarted the courageous leadership of Harry Reid, and the plucky "let's get it done no matter what the cost" spirit of the Obama administration.

How simply awful of them!

Posted by: Proudhon on January 21, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

That 41 person Senate super majority is killing all of us. Nothing can get done because of it. We can't even have a fully staffed administration. I guess the rule that 41 Senators can thwart the will of the people is in the constitution. It isn't? Well my, my, my.

Tell me why the Senate Democrats can't put the will of the people ahead of the will of the 41 Republican vote super majority?

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 21, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

This thing was dead long before the MA vote. As an example, centrists like Claire McCaskil (sp?) and Dick Durbin (both representing states heavily dependent on coal utilities) were conceding with the republican frame that this was a job killer would increase utility costs. The right wing propaganda machine had this in the pot a long while back and had the legislation so damped down to begin with that it would not have been very effective anyway.

We screw up the simple stuff, so guess how we handle complexity.

Posted by: lou on January 21, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK


"Is anyone else getting the sinking feeling that this Country isn't on the right side of history?"

Posted by: Buford on January 21, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

ron, the peeps of washington are a default coup d'etat -- they care not one iota for the peeps of this country, except as an annoyance while serving the power of corporate america.

barack obama is doing a damn fine job with our wars, our bankster bailouts, our kabuki health care 'reform' soap opera, and our "little copenhagen problem'...

things are swimming in washington dc. barack, harry, nancy... they got a hell of a lot more in common with their republican counterparts than with thee and me.

serving the people of this country is an aggravation and a distraction from serving the corporate masters and cashing their checks.

Posted by: neill on January 21, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Steve - we have 59 Dems in the Senate (even if not all vote the same way) &, how many?, 239 in the House?

Make those overwhelming majorities count!!

If you govern well (the hard part) you don't need to worry about "the next time we're in the minority".

Remove the super-majority roadblock or force the minority to follow it to the letter & see how long they can obstruct.

In short, Dems need to quit being whiny-ass titty-babbies, sack up & do the job they were elected to do!!

And you need to show some sack too.

Posted by: sidewinder on January 21, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

As a Massachusetts voter, I agree that what happened here was tragic, but the fact of the matter is that bad things happen all the time. Ted Kennedy shouldn't have gotten cancer. Paul Wellstone shouldn't have been in a plane crash. Joe Lieberman shouldn't cross over and become a Republican (hasn't happened yet, but could any day). But things like that happen. The Democratic caucus in the Senate should not have been setting its time table on the basis of a hope that nothing unexpected will ever happen. The Pelosi principle -- if you have the votes, you hold the vote -- is the way to go.

Posted by: alkali on January 21, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I can't blame Massachusetts. The senate is fucking broken - something must change. Rarely does one party have a majority this large - yet nothing can get done? As Jon Stewart noted, when did 60 become the majority of 100?

Posted by: Bobo Teh Clown on January 21, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Watch Howard Fineman's take on Maddow from last night. It's spot on..Obama has not at all taken the bull by the horns with regard to selling his passions clearly and plainly with Congress members.

A simple but unfamiliar skill for Obama, who prefers to stand back, keep his hands clean and
make grandiose, largess speeches laced with lawyer--syrupy speak that no-one can really connect with..

If he doesn't roll up his sleeves and get into it the dirt and drop his "suave/cool/smooth" persona ("I don't like to get angry")..he will be toast and all this will be for naught.

It's as though he's more attached to that cool image than taking any real chances and flexing his muscles..he sees this as beneath him I think..or he's just that unfamiliar and naive that this is indeed what's required..

And the White House web site according to Fineman doesn't even list the many accomplishments they have..if they don't get off this "Oh, we're so humble" kick...then no-one will remember or recognize what they have indeed accomplished.

It's all about attachment to image that I assert Obama needs to really be willing to notice and own as a source of the problem and be willing to flex on this and try on a more aggressive hands on personal, passionate but very simple and clear approach..

Indeed, he's been completely hands off and just left it to the committees to hash it out..

Posted by: Insanity on January 21, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Your whole fucking country is broken. You should rename your country THE UNITED CORPORATIONS OF AMERICA. Your country is now in a death spiral and you just are too stupid to realize this yet.

Posted by: blue on January 21, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

It would seem to me that a cap-and-trade bill is clearly a tax on greenhouse gas emission. This makes is a clear candidate for reconciliation. Using reconciliation we can get a much stronger bill. Why don't they go for it that way????

After all, the Repugs passed the Bushie tax cuts using reconciliation.

Posted by: MichMan on January 21, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

The President spent his "maiden" political capital for us in hopes of getting the much needed HCR. I appreciate it, as no Republican before him was ever willing to put us ahead of their poll numbers. I would also like to know if Massachusetts will be asking for federal aid when the sea waters overcome thir shores as polar caps melt?

Posted by: maggie on January 21, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Given the attention span of the American voter, Brown should have no trouble keeping his seat. He can vote the straight Republican party line right up until about two weeks prior to any event (such as an election, but not necessarily) that could jeopardize the safety of his standing with the voters. At that point he can suggest that not only is he for the opposite philosophy/policy/initiative, he's always been for it. The dozy rabble he represents will quack loudly in agreement, and it will become as real as if it always was.

Posted by: Mark on January 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Not to worry. I'm sure that if the mean sea level rises a few feet by 2050, Boston Harbor will be completely unaffected. It's not as if Boston has anything important, like an airport, right next to the shoreline.

Posted by: josef on January 21, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK
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