Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 23, 2010

BLAME WHERE BLAME IS DUE.... What's become of the Senate energy bill is a profound disappointment to anyone who takes policy seriously. It's a shell of its former self, and it's painful to see this rare opportunity to make meaningful progress slip away. It's not that the legislation's remaining provisions are worthless -- there's some decent stuff in there, including Home Star -- but the bill needed to include at least some kind of cap-and-trade and renewable energy standards. It won't.

While there's still some talk about taking another bite at this apple before the next (more hostile) Congress, realistically, most participants in this debate seem pretty certain that nothing more will happen. As such, the circular firing squad is already starting to take aim.

David Roberts noted that as "frustrated" as he is with Democratic leaders for coming up far short, they're not ultimately to blame.

[W]e should be clear about where the bulk of the responsibility for this farce ultimately lies: the Republican Party and a handful of "centrist" Democrats in the Senate. They are the ones who refused to vote for a bill, no matter how many compromises were made, no matter how clear the urgency of the problem. They are moral cowards, condemning their own children and grandchildren to suffering to serve their own narrow electoral interests. There isn't enough contempt in the world for them. So when the anger and recrimination get going -- as they already are -- let's at least try to keep the focus on the real malefactors.

Agreed. In fact, conservatives aren't just rejecting a sound idea -- they're rejecting their own idea. David Leonhardt noted yesterday, "The sad paradox is that cap and trade -- which trusts in the efficiency of markets -- was originally a Republican policy."

The right used to consider cap-and-trade a reasonable, market-based mechanism that was far preferable to command-and-control directives that Republicans found offensive. The idea was embraced by H.W. Bush to reduce acid rain -- and it worked.

But the same mechanism has remained popular with Republicans until very recently. The political world seems to have forgotten this, but the official position of the McCain/Palin Republican presidential ticket, not even two years ago, was to support cap-and-trade. Not just in theory, either. The official campaign website in 2008 told Americans that John McCain and Sarah Palin "will establish ... a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions." McCain/Palin's official position added, "A cap-and-trade system harnesses human ingenuity in the pursuit of alternatives to carbon-based fuels."
Democratic policymakers could, today, endorse the policy put forward by the Republican ticket from 2008, and GOP senators would filibuster it. That's what's become of the state of the debate.

So, is all hope lost? When it comes to legislating in 2010, probably. But one of the factors driving the debate on the Hill has been the EPA option hanging over the negotiations like the sword of Damocles: if lawmakers fail to act, the administration will. It's what gives Joe Klein some hope.

[T]here is a Supreme Court ruling, now three years old, that carbon dioxide is a poison that needs to be cleaned up. Next year, the Environmental Protection Agency will begin regulating the hell out of Co2. The business community won't like that, nor will many Republicans. "Putting a price on carbon is the only alternative," says Senator Maria Cantwell....

And so, yesterday's death of environmental legislation should be considered a pre-election maneuver. Given a choice between taxes and potentially punitive regulations, the wise -- the more elegant; the less expensive -- choice is a tax every time.

The sooner 60 senators wrap their heads around this, the better.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

the bill had turned into a massive farce which gave way too much money to really bad ideas-in this case i think EPA is in a MUCH better position to produce reality and science-based rules than our cowardly legislators.

there is nothing sacred about letting legislators game, gut and otherwise muck up such an important issue-like they have done on healthcare and financial reform...

Posted by: sue on July 23, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

So how's that hopey-changey thing going for you, liberals?

Posted by: Al on July 23, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK
In fact, conservatives aren't just rejecting a sound idea -- they're rejecting their own idea.

The Republicans are going through a period of purification. They are casting off any idea that is sensible enough to actually receive Democratic support. Spurred by the Tea Party movement, soon the Republicans will have an ideology that is 100% pure of any non-insane idea.

Actually, I almost wish that the Democrats would go through a mirror-image purification process. If the Dems cast off their moderates, then they would lose their majority, perhaps, but their message would become more coherent, which should count for something.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on July 23, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Though Senate Democrats have pulled the plug for now, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) tells Bloomberg that Democrats "may take up his comprehensive climate-change bill in a lame-duck session after the November elections."

Said Kerry: "If it is after the election, it may well be that some members are free and liberated and feeling that they can take a risk or do something."

http://politicalwire.com/archives/2010/07/23/kerry_sees_action_on_climate_bill_after_elections.html

Posted by: cr on July 23, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

[W]e should be clear about where the bulk of the responsibility for this farce ultimately lies: the Republican Party and a handful of "centrist" Democrats in the Senate. They are the ones who refused to vote for a bill

That's not quite correct - they are welcome to refuse to vote for a bill, but they are refusing to allow the senate to vote for a bill, and are therefore imposing dictatorship by a minority on the will of the majority.

And, Daryl, jesus, it's frustrating as all get out, but the presence of the blue dogs gives the Democrats the majority which (a) has allowed a lot of legislative progress, even if far less than we'd like, and (b) has prevented Republicans from doing all manner of damage. Even if you think of Obama as a weak continuance of Bush (which I don't buy), it is still vastly preferable to what would have been a Bush-squared under continued republican control. Hair-pulling Democratic control is vastly preferable to Republican control. The way to play the game here is to get your people in power, and then both support them and build political pressure underneath them to push them to do the right thing, not to tear them back down or cast them aside.

Posted by: N.Wells on July 23, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

I really hope this breathes some life into the Cantwell/Collins legislation which is much better than the thing Kerry put together.

Posted by: sue on July 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's time to consider that there may not be a "political" solution to an environmental issue this big and complicated.

Environmental crises are by and large caused by aggregated individual behaviors, and it may be that the only way to solve them is also going to be one individual at a time.

There certainly may be role for government to play in terms of regulating and incentivizing, but it's always going to come down to each individual person making a conscious decision to change their habits.

Posted by: mfw13 on July 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

N. Wells,

That's sound advice. I did say I almost wish.

On the other hand, if the Dems lose enough seats in the Senate that they can no longer pull 60 votes to end filibusters (even with the help of a few Northeast Republicans like Collins, Snowe and Brown), then I have a hard time seeing a big difference between having 55 Senators and having 48. Nothing's going to get done without 60 votes.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on July 23, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Said Kerry: "If it is after the election, it may well be that some members are free and liberated and feeling that they can take a risk or do something."

Take a risk? This statement is all you need to hear understand that Congress will never avert in time to avert catastrophic climate change?

I get that Democrats may fear that taking a realistic position on carbon emissions may hurt them with the business community and with corporate fundraising. But how did we get to a point where Democrats actually avoid climate change because they fear VOTERS?

Any legislator that feels incapable of explaining to constituents why proposed legislation will help the constituents should resign from office.

Posted by: square1 on July 23, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Folks the coming environmental crisis isn't the first the planet has endured. The Earth will abide.

The losers will be the people living on the Earth. Our descendants will suffer, but who cares we will be dead and gone. We will have enjoyed ourselves in the process. After all we are the ME civilization.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 23, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Al, how is that "greed is good thingy working out for you.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 23, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Al, as long as Republicans refuse to participate in meaningful governance for the sake of the people, there is absolutely no hope for the U.S., no matter who is president.

Posted by: chrenson on July 23, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

The tragedy of humanity is that we have the capacity to contemplate and appreciate the magnitude of our own limitations.

We could simply mindless consume, without regret or remorse, and deal with the consequences as they come.

Or we could have the ability to alter our collective behavior when confronted with self-inflicted threats to our safety.

Nut neither of those describe humanity.

Unfortunately, we are both aware of our impending doom and powerless to stop it. Like someone paralyzed but conscious and aware of doctors about to perform surgery, we can neither speak out nor take steps to stop the fast-approaching harm.

Posted by: square1 on July 23, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Frightened conservatives would rather hang on to a past that never was than embrace the future that could be.

Posted by: beep52 on July 23, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

It's NOT that big a thing

FOCUS on the Economy
Don't waste time on a compromised half measure

Focus on the economy
Obama is trying to do too much without selling HCR and a new stimulus

A bad economy will kill Democrats in the House. Get the economy going. Try a put real focus and energy into stimulating the economy

President Obama needs to hold a Press Conference to explain to the American people why we need more stimulus and why the deficit will slow with the end of the Bush Tax Giveaway

Posted by: FriscoSF on July 23, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

square1: I get that Democrats may fear that taking a realistic position on carbon emissions may hurt them with the business community and with corporate fundraising. But how did we get to a point where Democrats actually avoid climate change because they fear VOTERS?

Obviously, there are at least a dozen Democratic senators who are afraid of their own shadow, not to mention donors and voters. Since many of them are in the most vulnerable districts, they are more likely to lose the November election. Same with Republicans in vulnerable districts.

Kerry's hope for passing climate change legislation reflects Kristoferson's (sp?) line that "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." Even if dems have a net loss in November, there may be enough "freed" senators, from both sides of the aisle, who are willing to vote (what's left of) their conscience in a lame duck session.

Posted by: cr on July 23, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, for all the times John McCain is on teevee [A topic Steve B. loves:) ], maybe someone could ask him abou tthis? Of course there would be some sort of mealy mouthed patter, but it would be fun to watch the squirming ....

Posted by: bigtuna on July 23, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

You completely miss the point, cr. Why would addressing climate change be an automatic loser in any district? Do you think that climate change will not affect people in red districts? Do you think that people in red districts are inherently too stupid to understand what is in their best interests? Or do you simply assume that the GOP will always have superior message discipline so that it isn't worth bothering to tell the public the truth?

That fatalistic-loser mentality is what kills the Dems. Average people may not understand every nuance of climatology, but they have common sense. And common sense tells them that the politician who is afraid to engage in debate and has to wait until after an election to propose legislation is probably hiding something and lacks the courage of his convictions.

Again, my suggestion to those Dems who believe that success is impossible is that they get the hell out of the way.

Posted by: square1 on July 23, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

No, I'm afraid that you're the one who misses the point if you think everyone should believe like you just because... well, just because.

You said: my suggestion to those Dems who believe that success is impossible is that they get the hell out of the way

That is my point. There ARE, whether you want to accept it or not, dem senators who think that they will lose votes on election day if they vote for climate change legislation. It doesn't really matter whether you think they're right or wrong; they aren't going to change between now and the election.

If they lose the election, they may then be more willing to "do the right thing" and vote for the bill.

This isn't "fatalistic-loser mentality." If that's what you want, look at your own 11 am post:

Unfortunately, we are both aware of our impending doom and powerless to stop it.

Posted by: cr on July 23, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

"We're gonna do it! We are really gonna do it! You won't like it when we do it! We're really planning on doing it? Last chance before we do it...

1....
2....
3....
4...."

Posted by: MNPundit on July 23, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

square1 wrote: "Do you think that people in red districts are inherently too stupid to understand what is in their best interests?"

Well, yeah. A majority of them are. Pretty much by definition.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 23, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

So Republicans favored cap-and-trade, but now they don't.

And when Republicans offered an alternative health care reform--which was similar to what was just passed--in response to Clinton's proposal, they favored it but now they don't.

And when they claimed that disclosure was what was really needed for campaign finance reform instead of McCain-Feingold, they favored it but now they don't.

I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it looks more and more like pure obstructionism to me.

Posted by: dsimon on July 25, 2010 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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