Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 22, 2010

'I SAID NO CAP-AND-TRADE'.... There aren't enough votes in the Senate to pass an ambitious cap-and-trade proposal, and Republicans won't let the Senate vote on a more scaled-back version, put together with tri-partisan backing, called the American Power Act. The new compromise offer is a "utilities only" approach that would impose emissions limits on the electric utility sector -- and not on the economy at large.

Any chance Republicans might let the Senate vote on this?

A centrist Republican that President Barack Obama is courting on energy legislation on Monday rejected the idea of greenhouse gas limits applied only to electric utilities, just days after a senior White House official floated the concept.

"No. I said no cap-and-trade," said Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), speaking to reporters in the Capitol.

How would Lugar prefer to reduce carbon emissions? He wouldn't. What's his alternative approach? To ignore the problem entirely.

In other words, if the legislation tries to combat global warming at all, Lugar -- one of the more approachable Senate Republicans -- will not only oppose it, he'll also fight to prevent the Senate from even voting on it.

Lugar's inflexibility is similar, by the way, to that of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who said a "utilities only" approach is unacceptable because "it still puts you in the world of cap-and-trade."

So, if the legislation limits carbon emissions on anyone or anything, anywhere, even a little, Republicans will kill the legislation. Better yet, Democrats can acquiesce and drop cap-and-trade, and Republicans might still kill the legislation, just because.

And because Senate Democrats are "only" in the majority, and the Senate rules are ridiculous, the most pressing global crisis facing humanity in the 21st century will continue to be ignored, almost entirely because Republicans refuse to even consider action.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Only Oil companies know how to we use energy as a society.

Only BP knows how to plug the leak it created.

Only banks know how to manage risk.

Only McChrystal knows how to fight a war.

So let's keep everyone and see what happens?

Posted by: Ohioan on June 22, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

What are the Republicans thinking? I direct you back to Citizen's United. They appear to be illogically ignoring voters. Doesn't sound politically feasible. But wait! Money is speech and corporations and interest groups can give unfettered. Money is speech and speech is adds on television, radio and mailings. The Republicans have, apparently, calcuated they will be able to win a significant amount of future elections if they have access to huge amounts of money to drown out less well funded candidates. They are banking credibility and loyalty with their new base--national and interntional large corporate interests. No longer are the social conservatives or tea-baggers the target audience--they have proven to be capricious and hard to manage. The RNC is moving to tap into the new money supply. Watch . . . when that well-head starts flowing, there won't be enough air left in the room for progressive voices, Fox News will no longer be the only pipe organ for conservatives, and the nation will get a steady diet of the new orthodoxy: only unregulated business is American, all else are socialists and terrorists.

Posted by: Charles G on June 22, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a surprise? Of course there are nowhere near 60 votes in the Senate for minimally meaningful environmental legislation, or for a host of other progressive objectives. Obama needs to make a revision of Senate Rule 22 a major objective of his presidency, and he needs to be constantly badgering recalcitrant Democrats until it happens. Because until then, nothing else of consequence will.

Posted by: Tony Greco on June 22, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

And how may people in the Senate even know what cap & trade even means ?

I would be shocked if that number was a third.

Posted by: ScottW714 on June 22, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

The march to national doom continues apace, fueled by our collective selfishness and stupidity. Lugar is only a symptom. If there were 100 Democratic senators and no filibuster, there would still be no climate change legislation. It requires short-term loss for long-term gain, which is about the ultimate crime in U.S. society.

Posted by: JMG on June 22, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

For once, I'de like to see the Dems put out the bill that will actually achieve the stated objective and fight tooth and nail for it, instead of making preemptive concessions in anticipation of a preordained rejection by the opposition.

Make it an issue and publicly challenge the GOBP's rationale. Put it ON THEM.

Posted by: bdop4 on June 22, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Passing any meaningful legislation before the fall elections will be impossible, an exercise in futility. The only reason to try is to use the cons obstruction against them. I can't see any democrat doing that.

@bdop4 - me, too. I'd like to see the dems fighting for something - anything at this point.

Posted by: CDW on June 22, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

One of the funny ironies is that BPublicans, Glibertoons and dittohacks are complaining how the lower half "don't pay any federal taxes." O-k-a-y, in Cap and Trade you have a golden opportunity to require the little people to pitch in some income to cover the costs of warding off climate change (a risk, regardless of just how bad a risk) and moving to energy independence (which should be reason enough anyway.) But instead, the 'baglicans gripe of how working families will cough up yadda for this purpose. Clearly, they really do want to tax the small people and that is the official line circulated among their rotten upper crust. But the small people are baited with the pretense of 'baglican concern for the middle class.

If Refuselicans really want to help the middle class, they can agree to knock out the unwarranted lower tax on capital gains and reduce the over income rates or raise exemptions as tradeoff. But they don't want to, nor do enough Democrats. BTW Obama simply *must* move to lift the CGTR, the FICA cap etc. if he wants progressives (rational promoters of public interest, actually) to take him seriously.

PS I'm adjusting my handle (not that I'll remember or care every time) to assist searches.

Posted by: Neil B 23 on June 22, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Kerry is out fighting for his bill for one. He's made repeated press releases and has continued to lobby his colleagues about his bill. And there are others as well.

Are the Blue Dogs doing anything? No, of course not, but the progressive caucus of the Democratic party IS fighting for an environmental bill.

But that stuff is boring to the MSM so you aren't going to read about it in any major newspaper nor see it on any of the major news programs.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on June 22, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

well, hopefully the Dems can jettison all their principles in a much more time-efficient manner than they did with health care so we can get down to passing a piece of shit bill as quickly as possible.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on June 22, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

But the article you linked to says "This month Lugar floated a bill to curb oil use that does not include any carbon regulation.". Which of course would reduce carbon emissions.

IIRC, Lugar's plan calls for an increase in the use of domestic oil rather than foreign oil (no change on carbon) and a massive investment in nuclear power plants (exchanging carbon waste for nuclear waste). His bill offers a sop for improving energy efficiency as, IIRC, a tax credit for people who have the money to retrofit their houses with more energy efficient appliances.

Strangely the Senator from Indiana has not volunteered a site in Indiana for storage of nuclear waste produced by these plants he wants to build. Funny that.

Posted by: NonyNony on June 22, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm getting tired of so many things, but one that particularly annoys me is that "X cannot be done because election Y is coming up."

Elections are always coming up, used as rationales for why big, visionary legislation just cannot even be attempted, much less passed.

Apparently, only in the first few weeks subsequent to any election can any big legislation be attempted. We have precious few legislators who are not locked into that mindset, and with Citizens United in place and campaign finance reform not in place ensuring publicly funded elections, it will always be thus.

Oh, and I can't determine if a's comment is directed at Steve, or at Lugar. The way it reads, seems like an attack on Steve...

Posted by: terraformer on June 22, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

A failed model in a warming world

American democracy is not up to the challenge.
And Artic sea ice couldn't care less about the US Senate and its stuffed corporate shirts:

The report references a new University of Washington measurement model that estimates Arctic ice-volume trends.
According to those scientists, average Arctic ice volume in May was 19,000 cubic kilometres, “the lowest May volume over the 1979 to 2010 period.”
In November, University of Manitoba polar scientist David Barber also raised concerns about the increasingly “rotten” state of the Arctic’s oldest ice and predicted ice-free summers could become the norm far sooner than 2030, as some experts have forecast.
Posted by: koreyel on June 22, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's time for Democrats to come up with a new game plan.
The fact is, the one thing Republicans are really good at is being in the opposition.
With this in mind, here's how to think about any bill going forward:

If the Republicans are not completely apoplectic and predicting the ruination of the country if the bill passes, then the bill doesn't go far enough. If they are completely opposed and predicting doom and gloom on passage, then, ram the bill through any way possible. Use reconciliation, twist arms, threaten people with loss of committee assignments and seniority, or anything else to get it passed. If it fails because of Republican obstruction,then you have a reason to elect more (and better) Democrats. If it passes you have succeeded and the voters will take notice.

Republicans will oppose everything you do. Make it work for you.

Posted by: atlliberal on June 22, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

a: But the article you linked to says "This month Lugar floated a bill to curb oil use that does not include any carbon regulation.". Which of course would reduce carbon emissions.

Er, no. Because there is no cap on carbon in the Lugar bill emissions are free to go as high as the energy industry would like. If I improve emissions on cars but sell more cars, guess what? There is more overall carbon in the atmosphere trapping heat.

If I curb oil imports but produce and use more oil domestically, guess what? There is more overall carbon in the atmosphere trapping heat. That doesn't help stave off global warming but it does make Republicans looks like they're not completely anti-environment and gives them some political cover to fight a comprehensive energy bill.

The Lugar bill sets some very mild goals for improving efficiency, investing in renewables, and emissions that would likely be met by federal standards already in place, and leaves loopholes that would allow polluters not only to avoid some of the regulatory changes (like taking "dirty old coal plants" offline by 2019) but also avoid an ultimate cap on emissions...

...which means more carbon in the atmosphere trapping heat.

The Lugar bill neither legislates nor guarantees an overall reduction of carbon. So yeah -- you're wrong and Steve was right. Guess you're the dummy. See ya next time!

Posted by: b on June 22, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

And because Senate Democrats are "only" in the majority, and the Senate rules are ridiculous, the most pressing global crisis facing humanity in the 21st century will continue to be ignored . . .

Um, yeah, so Democrats either need to get one hell of a lot better at winning arguments in the court of public opinion, or do what the Republicans threatened to do around 2002 with the so-called 'nuclear option' and get rid of the filibuster completely.

Voters reward action, not 'bipartisanship'. And certainly not 'bipartisanship' which allows Republicans to screw the country sideways.

Posted by: David Bailey on June 22, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand. Obama got 52% of the vote, and there's a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate, so why doesn't Obama give us everything he promised us? And why didn't we get it yesterday? That man is just one disappointment after another. He is surely one of the worst Presidents we've ever had.

(This is what I'm hearing from some "progressive" quarters. Apologies if I got the meme wrong.)

Posted by: josef on June 22, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats have no one but themselves to blame, or rather, we have no one but the Democratic 'leadership' to blame. They have the power to excercise the nuclear option and eliminate the filibuster. They choose not to do it because they'd rather blame the republicans for not 'letting' them do anything, than to actually do something and risk getting blamed for the results. Until we elect Democrats who are willing to stand up and act, instead of blaming the Republicans for their own inaction, nothing will get done.

Posted by: Kyle McCullough on June 27, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK



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