EnergyWorks CR is going to spend the week taking a closer look at how the Senate is likely to mark-up the already near-unrecognizable Waxman-Markey bill that was passed 219-212 in the House late Friday. We will look with special attention at what is likely to happen to the transmission siting authority proposals on the Senate side, particularly in light of the recent action in the courts on FERC’s existing “backstop” authority over transmission.
Sunday’s NYT ran a couple of pieces on the climate change vote, both worth reading. Carl Hulse’s Congressional Memo unearths the eerie coincidence that may have some House Dems throwing salt over their shoulder, crossing their hearts or doing something to avoid a hex. As Hulse writes, in 1993, House Dems voted en masse (the House vote was 219-212) to enact a BTU tax. The Senate let the bill wither on the vine and suddenly in a tough mid-term year for the left (remember the “Republican Revolution”), many Democrats found themselves taking a beating for a vote that never had any hope of becoming policy.
Two key takeaways from the Senate shift and Hulse’s story:
First, Hulse is perceptive in noting that the House GOP never really mustered a persuasive enough rebuke of the Waxman-Markey bill. Granted, they did get a lot of givebacks for themselves and many of “their interests” (my quotations, not from Hulse), but still the “biggest tax increase in US history” schpiel just wasn’t enough. It almost sounded too much like a player piano tune from the GOP house organ to even engage the public. It will be very interesting to see if the Senate side GOP can do a better job of pulling out some sexier arguments. Their media allies on talk radio (Laura Ingraham is all over it) and in the conservative press have been doing a nice job pulling out the trade and global competitive disadvantage line of argument in recent days. With the economy still in a rut, that argument has more legs than knee-jerk tax increase palaver. Let’s see what else they can dig up.
Second, Hulse touches on the key difference that emerges from the structure of the Senate. Sure, the Dems have 59 votes, but they only have two per state. So, Dems don’t pick up those extra votes in bluer districts of Red or Brown Dog Dem states. For example, the House Dems got key support in Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and even Idaho (all are 0 for 2 states in the Senate). Then there are the states like Ohio, Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee where they stand to lose ground as well.
The second Sunday NYT story on the climate bill is Jeff Zeleny’s on the White House’s last minute weekend address switcheroo: health care was out and climate change was in. More accurately, probably, someone figured it would be a shame to waste the weekend platform by talking about an ongoing fight instead of using it to tout a “win.”
The most telling moment of the remarks for me had to be the invocation of the Almighty: “So I want to congratulate the House for passing this bill, and I want to urge the Senate to take this opportunity to come together and meet our obligations – to our constituents, to our children, to God’s creation, and to future generations.”
Think the President is making a push for some of those Red state religious conservatives? This is a match that works on occasion, for example, liberals and evangelicals share a passion for third world poverty and social justice issues in that kind of context, but the planet? The environment? For everything, there is a season…is the climate – ahem – changing?