Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 11, 2010

LETTING A RARE OPPORTUNITY SLIP AWAY.... The vote was far closer than it should have been, but a narrow Senate majority rejected Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) scheme to undercut the EPA. That's the good news. The bad news, the vote made it increasingly obvious that the Senate doesn't want to address energy policy this year, an impression reinforced later in the day.

Senate Democratic leaders and chairmen emerged from a meeting on climate change Thursday with no decisions on how or whether to move forward with legislation this summer, with some saying there is little appetite among even the chairmen with jurisdiction over the issue to take on the politically dicey topic this year.

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said the "dominant concern" in the meeting of six chairmen and five Members of the Senate leadership was whether Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) have 60 votes to beat back an expected filibuster of their bill to regulate greenhouse gases.

"What's the point of doing anything without 60 votes?" Rockefeller asked. "I think there's some feeling that you don't spend time on the floor trying to figure out if you've got 60 votes. You have to understand before you go to the floor that you have 60 votes."

He added there is some worry that the legislation could cause political problems for some vulnerable Members of the Democratic Conference. He said most of the participants at the meeting had concerns about embarking on a wide-ranging climate change debate this year, but he noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not take a position.

Rockefeller is not exactly a credible voice on the subject -- he was one of six Dems who voted for the Murkowski measure -- but his comments nevertheless shed light on a larger truth. Some key senators are looking for excuses to let the initiative die, rather than looking for solutions on how to get it done.

Greg Sargent noted last night, "[I]n the wake of possibly the worst environmental calamity in our history, this is, well, freakin' insane."

I couldn't agree more. Look, this need not be complicated. Our existing energy policy is a mess; global warming is getting worse; our international competitors are getting way ahead of us in investing in a next-generation energy framework; and our dependence on oil is undermining the nation's interests in a wide variety of ways.

There's a reasonable, modest bill -- the American Power Act -- on the table, which was crafted by a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent. It doesn't go far enough, but it addresses global warming; it reduces our oil dependence; it improves American competitiveness; it creates jobs in a critical industry; and it lowers the budget deficit. The effort enjoys the support of the president, and the leadership of both chambers, and polls show public support for this kind of effort -- support that's growing in the midst of a disastrous oil spill.

And yet, Republicans refuse to even consider acting, and a few too many Democrats are scared to try.

If nothing gets done this year, an opportunity like this one will not emerge again for quite a while. The consequences of failure will be severe.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Comments

Morning, Steve. You write: "...a few too many Democrats are scared to try." That would be the two who aren't big oil poolboys, right?

Posted by: azportsider on June 11, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

We, the People: Jesus H. Christ, the HOUSE IS ON FIRE!
Republicans: I need a cigarette. Gotta match?
Democrats: But the house is on fire!
Republicans: Then you won't mind the smoke...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on June 11, 2010 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously big oil owns several Democratic sentators and they will do what they have been paid to do the rest of us be damned. Who says money can't buy loyalty.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 11, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans and the Democratic whores for coal and oil won't do anything until the Capital is surrounded by water at high tide like Mont Saint-Michel.

Then of course, they'll be the ones screeching the loudest about how Washington didn't do anything -- just like they're doing about how Washington didn't do anything to ensure the safety of offshore oil wells.

Maybe Sen. Rockefeller and the rest of the West Virginia delegation have a secret plan move their state's economy from coal to tourism with a series of ocean-front resorts.


Posted by: SteveT on June 11, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

In six months, when the New Dead Sea, like the Detroit River, catches fire, and unemployment in FL/AL/LA is at 90%, Americans will go to the polls.

-Will somebody else please finish this post?

Posted by: DAY on June 11, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Correction...

"...a few too many Democrats are scared to try."

Should read: "...a few too many Democrats are too bought to try."

Posted by: AngryOldVet on June 11, 2010 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Our society is imploding. Reminds me of something Pogo once said.

Posted by: citizen_pain on June 11, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

a fuckin' exxon valdez every 10 days, and we are dependent on criminal corporate puppets in washington.

Posted by: neill on June 11, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Blanche Lincoln story still has my dander up. What was the White House's point when they pissed on progressives and labor. Save Blanche Lincoln? From what? She has zero chance in the Fall. Halter only had a marginally better shot, but it was better than Lincoln.

This country needs a third party. A party that actually cares about the wellbeing and future of the American people.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 11, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

There is no point of writing NEW laws, if existing laws are NEVER enforced.

BP has breeched their contract, it is now imperative that the courts step in and see that BP accounts are held until the cleanup is completed.

Posted by: Fed Up and Tired on June 11, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that the House Dems already managed to pass energy / CO2 control legislation. This isn't a failure on the part of Dems. It is a failure on the part of the Senate Dems. Keep that in mind when it comes time to vote. The House, under Pelosi, has done an impressive job of pushing through the agenda that was campaigned on in 2008. The Senate with its ridiculous holds and filibusters is the real obstacle.

Posted by: noogs on June 11, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Fed Up and Tired said:
it is now imperative that the courts step in and see that BP accounts are held until the cleanup is completed.

Are you referring to the same Republican-dominated courts that took the $5 billion in damages levied against Exxon after the Exxon Valdez spill and cut it down to $507 million?

Posted by: SteveT on June 11, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

The silver lining in cranky clouds
still the unctuous crowd
lest we rot out loud

Posted by: FRP on June 11, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Are you referring to the same Republican-dominated courts that took the $5 billion in damages levied against Exxon after the Exxon Valdez spill and cut it down to $507 million?

Posted by: SteveT

When does it become about America and its future and not about political gain with you?

I said held, not damages levied against BP. That means all BP assets held by the courts with BP filling out formal request with the court to spend their own money.

Posted by: Fed Up and Tired on June 11, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Ever see "The Road Warrior"? I thought you had. How about "The Day After Tomorrow"? Got that one, too.

Both are coming to a reality near you, brought to you by greed, narcissism, and deliberate ignorance on the part of a few hundred grumpy old men who won't be around then.

Posted by: terraformer on June 11, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Fed Up, its perfectly reasonable for SteveT to suggest that the courts past actions make it unlikely for them to do the right thing now.

On the other hand, I would point out that the damage award SteveT is refering to was specifically for punitive damages. The econominc damage award was not reduced and Exxon was required to pay nearly $2 billion in cleanup costs.

Also, the Supreme Court decision (written by David Souter, not one of the more conservative members of the court) mentioned as part of its reasoning that Exxon's actions were "worse than negligent but less than malicious."

Based on the reports that have come out so far about the condition of the cutoff valve, the pressure readings during the cementing operation before the explosion and BP's long record of environmental and safety infractions, the case that their actions are "malicious" seems a lot sronger than it was in the Exxon Valdez incident.

So while some skepticism is reasonable, it is entirely possible that the same courts that produced the Exxon Valdez ruling would be more pro-active in the current case.

Posted by: tanstaafl on June 11, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

This is politicking 101, since the EPA apparently has the ability to set standards, they should, drastic ones at that. Scare the hell out of every polluting industry in the US.

Congress will act faster than you can say filibuster. And if the EPA plays their hand right, cap and trade will be a god send to all.

Posted by: ScottW714 on June 11, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Why is it that only Dems need 60 votes and Republicans always manage to find a way around it? even in the minority, Republicans don't need 60 votes to mess with the majority? I don't recall Republicans EVER having 60 votes in the Senate and they managed to pass plenty of legislation. (enough to almost destroy the country!)

Pass the bill. People don't care how you do it, just do it. If you have to use reconciliation or some obscure parliamentary procedure to pass it with a MAJORITY of 51 votes then do it! If you have to force Republicans to block all Senate business until they stop being babies then do that. The reason Democrats are in trouble now is not because of their policies, it's because they are seen as incompetent for letting Republicans call the shots with only 41 votes int he Senate.

Dear Democrats,
Republicans are going to say mean things about you
anyway, so you might as well do the right thing.

Posted by: atlliberal on June 11, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

When will it finally sink in?? Obama and too many Dems are better than Bush and almost al Repubs, but not by much. a viable Progressive is needed to lead the Democratic wing of the Dems. Now more than ever.

Posted by: gdb on June 11, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Modest proposals... you think of the reasons to push them through.

end the filibuster, or limit it severely

impeach Chief Justice Roberts

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on June 11, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

When I see stuff like this, it makes me really happy that I have no kids and that I will live, at most, another 50 years (and that is if I live to be really, really, really old).

I pity people who have children and grandchildren. For it is they who will suffer.

Posted by: MsJoanne on June 11, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that the White House backed Lincoln, that Obama encouraged black voters to vote for her, is evidence enough for me that progressives do not have a voice in our political landscape.

This woman threatened to side with Republicans and filibuster HCR if it contained a public option, which by the way was supposedly a favorite of the Obama administration.

What more proof do you need that the corporations that own the political parties of this country are just fine and dandy keeping us preoccupied with this bullshit left vs/ right, con vs. lib paradigm?

I'm not blaming Obama personally for this, it happens to every single well meaning politician that goes to D.C.

Our system is hopelessly corrupt and incapable of changing. Hello third world.

Posted by: citizen_pain on June 11, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"a viable Progressive..." gdb @ 11:08 AM.

It's probably not a good idea to start you question with an oxymoron; that said, would you be kind enough to provide the name(s) of said progressives? Because the last progressive to run a decent Presidential campaign was Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, when he managed to place second behind Wilson and forced Taft into third place.
Of course, 1912 was sort of the high water mark of US Progressivism, possibly only passed by the New Deal/Fair Deal efforts of the '30s and post-WWII '40s. We've had Democratic progressives, Republican progressives, Progressive progressives; even the progressive Socialists got around a million votes, something that hasn't happened since.
And it should be mentioned that NOT ONE "progressive" politician was ever elected to the Presidency; Wilson wasn't a progressive, nor Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, or FDR. Truman was the closest, but he didn't run as a progressive, backing measures that provided for and protected the vast majority of "average" citizens, the ones that later became the backbone of the economic middle-classes.
Eisenhower? No. Kennedy? Definitely not. LBJ was, at least domestically, a follower of Truman, but was destroyed by his foreign policy errors in SE Asia. While Nixon and Ford were most definitely not "progressives"; Jimmy Carter, the only one-term Democratic President since the War of Southern Treason, probably comes the closest. And take note of that phrase: "one-term president"; that, most likely, is what will happen to ANY politician who is elected after running as a "progressive".
Any President who considers the welfare of the majority of this country's citizens needs, to some extent, to operate under cover of "necessity"; that's how the New Deal was passed. And the Civil Rights Act. And the legislation setting up the FDA, the EPA and countless other bits and pieces of legislation. We were literally being poisoned by our food before the FDA, air and water, even if not pristine now, were actually hazardous to our health prior to the EPA.
We don't need "progressives" per se, so much as politicians who recognize that their primary responsibility is to the voters who elected them. We still have a few, but nothing like the numbers there used to be. I wish I knew where they went...

Posted by: Doug on June 11, 2010 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

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