Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 5, 2010

THE SPILL, THE CONGRESS, AND THE CLIMATE BILL.... Reason suggests the BP oil spill in the Gulf should make the climate/energy bill pending in the Senate more likely to pass. What could prove the need for an overhaul of our existing energy policies more than this disaster?

If only it were that easy. The legislation was predicated on something of a grand bargain -- the left would get cap-and-trade and investment in renewables; the right would get nuclear plants and offshore drilling. But in the wake of the catastrophe in the Gulf, there is no deal. Key Dems now insist drilling be taken off the table, while Republicans and Democratic industry allies (Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, for example) now insist they won't even consider a bill unless it includes plenty of drilling.

And so the oil disaster 50 miles from the U.S. shore -- the one that should make the climate/energy bill a no-brainer -- has actually made progress less likely.

[Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson] is perhaps the most outspoken of a group of anti-drilling Democrats, that also includes New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. They were none-too-pleased when President Obama greenlighted oil exploration -- and, potentially, full scale drilling -- along vast swaths of the Outer Continental Shelf in order to shore up support from pro-drilling Democrats. But the BP spill drove them into full revolt.

That wouldn't be a problem at all if other senators, and industry players, viewed the Gulf catastrophe as oil's Waterloo. But if anything, the opposite has happened. The bill's authors see offshore drilling as one of the keys to bringing oil-patch Democrats and Republicans into the fold on climate and energy legislation -- and they are unwilling to allow the industry coalition they put together to be fractured by the backlash. At the same time pro-drilling senators have seemingly doubled down.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) -- one of the principal authors of yet-to-be-unveiled legislation told reporters Tuesday that the disaster in the Gulf has not moved him or the bill's other sponsors to remove drilling provisions.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday the still-ongoing BP spill may yet give some momentum to the legislation. Asked if the disaster endangers the bill, Reid said, "I think quite to the contrary. I think it should spur it on.... I think, rather than slow us up, I think it should expedite our doing energy legislation."

It certainly should, but at this point, there are nowhere near 59 other senators who agree.

Any chance proponents could use reconciliation on this, so the Senate could consider it on a straight up-or-down vote? David Roberts looked into this last week, and concluded that this isn't really an option. If Dems can't assemble the support to overcome yet another Republican filibuster, the GOP won't let the bill come up for a vote, even if a majority of the Senate approves.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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I ask the simple question here, again: How is paying lobby money direclty or indirectly to Congresspeople not bribery? I, as a lobbyist, pay money to an influential person or party in exchange for my desired outcome. Sounds like a bribe to me. Someone please explain

Posted by: st john on May 5, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I ask the simple question here, again: How is paying lobby money direclty or indirectly to Congresspeople not bribery? I, as a lobbyist, pay money to an influential person or party in exchange for my desired outcome. Sounds like a bribe to me. Someone please explain
Posted by: st john on May 5, 2010 at 10:49 AM |*****************************

Its not bribery b/c they say it's not. Since it's "legal", it's not a crime. Remember, there are 2 sets of laws. One for us, and one for the rich and powerful.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on May 5, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure that the Senator from FL is Bill Nelson. . .

Posted by: Michigoose on May 5, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

It is way to premature to even guess what is going to happen. I don't see Landrieu supporting Gulf drilling if Louisiana's coast looks like Alaska's after their spill. They start showing the marshlands and it's inhabitants, black with oil and minds are going to change real quick.

At this point they are talking about weeks, maybe even months just to stop the leak, it's going to be years before the actual cleanup is complete.

If this things starts drifting over to Florida or down to Mexico and the pristine vacation beaches start turning black and even Palin will back off.

Let's just hope we don't get a hurricane that brings all the oil to land. It could look like 1920's with oil falling from the skies in Houston.

Posted by: ScottW714 on May 5, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

How many such examples does it take to convince moderate progressive Democrats (there are no elected liberal Dems to count on the fingers of one hand) to break the filibuster now. As has been repeatedly said, nothing worth passing will pass unless the filibuster is broken -- and unless the Dems pass bills worth passing, they're toast in November and possibly for years to come.

Posted by: gdb on May 5, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I say this is a chance to finally deal with the US Clown Car Senate:

1) Remove their US citizenship due to criminal neglect of senatorial responsibility to govern this country.

2) Force them all to move to retirement communities in a) Arizona or b) one of the Gulf coast states.

3) Force them to live on Social Security for the rest of their lives (or until Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson and Pete Peterson take it away from them).

Posted by: neill on May 5, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Bribery, you say. I have to read this type of inuendo at this site, when, I could be watching the press conference from The Exxon Room, otherwise known as the den of Senator Landrieu's mansion in Louisiana, where the good Senator is pleading for "Drill, Baby, Drill"? They tried to set up in the larger BP room, known as her living room, but, it was being repainted in something other than black. Just love the video tour. The Mobil kitchen is absolutely darling and the Chevron bathrooms are delightful and the ARCO garage even has an old Richfield pump.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 5, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Alan Simpson" - I would prefer to see many of them, along with the powers to be at both BP and Haliburton living with OJ Simpson.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 5, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

This is what happens when we let the babies drill.

Posted by: chrenson on May 5, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, I've got to ask this question again: Why the fuck isn't this disaster "Big Oil's Katrina?"

Posted by: chrenson on May 5, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Add safety and technology regulations, like requiring a remote shut off valve on all off shore rigs and remove any cap on clean up liability costs for oil companies and oil services companies (Halliburton). Make the cost of an oil spill so prohibitive that one major spill could potentially wipe out 2 or 3 years profit of any off shore driller.

Real comprehensive energy policy for the real world

Posted by: bcinaz on May 5, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

And the great lie continues: all this oil drilled is simply sold on the international oil market. It is not put into any reserve for America, or in any way used to subtract what we buy from the international market. This whole argument that it 'decreased on dependence on foreign oil' is one big fucking lie. And, of course, this lie will never be exposed for what it is buy the Corporate Media. The corruption of American continues ......

Posted by: stormskies on May 5, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

St John,

If Sierra Club sends me money and I vote to set aside vast swaths of land for national parkland, was I bribed or were they helping me win election knowing I'd do their bidding?

It's a bribe if you did something you wouldn't otherwise do.
We can say it's not a bribe because Landrieu wants to win elections and she therefore wants want they want.

Are both bribery? Just hers? Why? Even if it isn't bribery, it could be seen as wrong, of course.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 5, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Lots of ink will be spilled on the death of the climate bill but it's all premature.

First, we haven't even seen the bill. If Senators like Bill Nelson did not make hay out of offshore drilling before the bill is public (especially in light of the BP spill), they'd be committing political malpractice. Florida is a state where no drilling is not only for crunchy granola types...it's the one thing most FL GOP and Dems can agree on.

Second, what's likely to happen is that a Senator like Nelson gets a carve out 'no drilling' off the shores of my state provision.

Third, Obama's speech conceding drilling and Interior's actions make it so drilling may never take place. The ban expired so it was open season anyway. There's a reason Boehner and other wingnut GOPers recoiled by saying it didn't go far enough. By rolling it all up in regulatory, geological, and ecological red tape... we're talking 10 or 15 years when maybe drilling happens somewhere. By then, who knows? Maybe the renewable standards (in a theoretical bill Nelson, and others, posture about today) makes it cost prohibitive to drill at depths of thousands of feet.

This is only the preamble to negotiations on a bill.

Posted by: JRinDallas on May 5, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Hi Steve Benen..thanks for your daily, very informative political updates.

It is Bill Nelson, the Democratic Senator from Florida. It's the dino "Ben" Nelson from Nebraska.

Posted by: Cha on May 5, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Chrenson wins the internets. I want that on a bumper sticker.

Posted by: doubtful on May 5, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Moratorium on drilling until mess sorted out--done.
Minimizing our energy, specifically oil, usage? Need astrong energy bill, good energy policy, basic research so we can develop new technologies, and good incentives to foster conservation and help the more efficient technologies make it to market.
Stop drilling? No. Not unless we stop using oil, else we're just shifting our environmmental problems elsewhere.
Force industry to use better blow out preventer-definitely.
Force industry to have an adjacent "relief and capping well" running alongside main well? Would have to make sure it doesn't cause more problems first.
Open up new areas for drilling-of course. But all adjecent states would have to approve, large clean up fund bonds posted, new blow out preventers needed, relief wells adjacent to new well, ROV's capable of "manually" closing valves at depth, containment boxes and anchor points around well head ready to go, ... And only after these systems have all been tested ...
Still need to try to improve envirnmental treaties/laws so our imported oil not damaging other ecosystems.

Posted by: golack on May 5, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

The ripples spread further into energy policy. Consider that the system that failed was "fail safe." Coal mines are "safe," too!

OK. now we're being told to support an aggressive expansion of nuclear power combined with less regulation of nuclear power.

Well, the regulatory enforcement is already sorely lacking. Nuclear power has a huge downside if "fail safe" technologies fail.

Imagine Don Blankenship running a nuke plant! Or the NRC!

This rush to nukes must be more thoughtful.

Posted by: Andy Olsen on May 5, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

They need a full-scale investigation on why extra precautions aren't being taken in hazardous situations like this. They need to subpoena Dick Cheney and his records of this meetings with oil industry execs. Then they need to chronicle the eight years of less-than-zero "regulation" that led up to this mess.

Posted by: bdop4 on May 5, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Good stuff golack.

Posted by: woody45 on May 5, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Two problems with this entire theory:

1. The oil disaster is just GETTING STARTED. This is going to be bigger by FAR than Exxon Valdez, and it's going to last a LONG time. There are going to be HUGE impacts and the entire gulf is going to be swimming oil. Expect years of controversy over this because rate of the spill is just accelerating with no containment in sight.

2. Republicans already want to make this "Obama's Katrina." They just can't help themselves. But, if it's going to be "Obama's Katrina" they have to play it up right? It has to be a HUGE disaster that is somehow Obama's fault, right?

That means Fox News giving endless coverage to how Obama failed to avert this human and ecological disaster. Endless coverage.

But that's not going to make "Drill, baby Drill!" any MORE popular with the public!

By the time this is over oil companies are going to be viewed worse than the financial industry is now.

No matter what those scumbag corporate-whore Senators might WANT right now, it's not going to be real popular to stand up for Oil companies by November or in the next few years until this mess is totally cleaned up.

Posted by: Cugel on May 5, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Surprise .. surprise .. surprise ..

During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.
... SUCKERS

Posted by: Neo on May 5, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK
Neo@1:35: ... SUCKERS

OK, so let's say this turns out to be true... and not just another manufactured item typical to Politico.

We're 'suckers' for what? Because we disagreed with Obama for the decision to expand offshore drilling... because we didn't buy an RNC tire gauge... because we didn't care for the 'drill, baby, drill' mantra from your team?

Or maybe you just enjoy calling people names... and don't care a whit about the consequences of this disaster? We'll see how proud you are of your 'SUCKER' thesis in a year, 2 years... 10 years.

Posted by: JTK on May 5, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I definitely think this "we still need drilling" policy is only short-term, and once this keeps playing out, they'll finally find their conscience (ie, opinion polls) and back down.

As for them being "bribed," I would add that more offshore drilling would financially benefit the states involved, as the states get a cut of the action off their shores. So it's possible these people really agree with this stuff, as it would benefit their constitutents.

And secondly, it's not bribery because the politicians don't get the money directly. If you give money to a politician for his personal use, that's still bribery. But if it goes to his campaign coffers, he's not directly benefitting. That's why it's such a big deal when politicians over-pay their family members to work for them, as that could constitute bribery. But as long as the money is for letting them get and keep their job, it's considered ok. Not that I agree with that necessarily, but that's the logic here.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 5, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

As has been repeatedly said, nothing worth passing will pass unless the filibuster is broken -- and unless the Dems pass bills worth passing, they're toast in November and possibly for years to come.

I agree with you, unless you're saying that a bill that allows further offshore drilling is actually worth passing. In that case I disagree.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 5, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Good point, Doctor Biobrain, but, I do think it is a nice touch for Mary L to emulate the Motel Six commercial and tell the oil companies that she will leave the Red Light on for them.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 5, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Any chance proponents could use reconciliation on this, so the Senate could consider it on a straight up-or-down vote? David Roberts looked into this last week, and concluded that this isn't really an option. If Dems can't assemble the support to overcome yet another Republican filibuster, the GOP won't let the bill come up for a vote, even if a majority of the Senate approves.

I read Roberts' piece when Ezra Klein linked to it last week. His header was, "Can good climate legislation pass via reconciliation?" And not only is 'good' the key word, but how you define 'good' is even more key.

Roberts:

You can think of good climate policy as a three-legged stool: legislation, regulation, and investment. U.S. elites like to pretend that all regulation is "command and control" and discredited in our enlightened neoliberal age, but neither America nor any other developed democracy behaves that way in practice. Regulations are rules of the road, and most roads need rules. (Energy markets, in particular, are in dire need of both simpler and greener rules.)
Reconciliation would effectively chop off the regulatory leg of the stool. It would, for instance, rule out at least half the provisions in the Waxman-Markey ACES bill that was passed by the House last summer, most importantly renewable-energy standards (which drive cleantech deployment and innovation) and energy-efficiency standards (which save money and reduce emissions). On the bright side, it would also preclude any rollback of EPA authority or preemption of state climate programs.

But that really doesn't look so bad to me: you could pass cap-and-trade through reconciliation - and getting any cap-and-trade bill through the Senate is better than getting none at all through.

Roberts' argument on the political unfeasability of reconciliation to pass a climate bill, OTOH, is totally incoherent. He seems to be saying that if you can't get 60 votes, then you can't get 50 either - which makes no sense at all.

If you only need 50 votes, you don't need Lindsey Graham or any other Republican. You don't need Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu or Blanche Lincoln. And you still have six more Dem votes you can give away on top of that.

So while I'd love to see a climate bill pass through the regular order, I can't see why reconciliation is off the table. It makes no sense at all to me.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 5, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Second, what's likely to happen is that a Senator like Nelson gets a carve out 'no drilling' off the shores of my state provision.

What good would that do? Do you issue an injunction against an oil spill off the coast of Mississippi, ordering it not to cross into the territorial waters of Florida?

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 5, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

So fine---just give them their drilling promise---but make the application and licensing process for an offshore rig about five times harder than the approval process for a nuke plant.

Watch how fast Big Oil gets on the go-green bandwagon then....

Posted by: S. Waybright on May 5, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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