Going Big, Not Going Home
Yesterday the Senate passed a resolution preventing climate change legislation from going through the budget reconciliation process, on an overwhelming vote of 67-31. The vote suggests that climate change alone can't get 50 votes in the House, anyway, so this doesn't seem to me like a major loss. In fact, this resolution only applies to this particular budget, and if a new budget resolution is written, the ban on reconciliation for cap and trade becomes moot.
However, I think the Administration has already foreclosed on that option, because the Markey-Waxman climate bill is more of an omnibus, which could actually make it easier to pass.
One of the striking features -- and perhaps the most consequential legislative decision Dems will make this year on energy/climate -- is that it lumps everything together in a single bill. I know some folks aren't big on this strategy, and I've been on the fence myself, but I've pretty much come to see it as both smart and inevitable.
Consider the context. There are several important steps that need to be taken on climate and energy, and the Dems have promised to get them done this year. If nothing else, the U.S. needs something to take to the Copenhagen climate talks, coming up in December. That puts serious time pressure on the whole undertaking [...]
It's important to note that the cap-and-trade part of the package is by far the least popular and easiest to demagogue. So conventional wisdom has been that Dems should lead with the more popular energy and grid stuff. But those aren't a cakewalk either -- there's plenty of regional opposition to renewable energy standards and a whole set of jurisdictional and local battles around the grid.
The fact is, doing these pieces separately would mean three, four, possibly five bruising legislative battles, culminating in a battle over cap-and-trade that, in my estimation, simply can't be won on its own in this Senate. No one in D.C. has the appetite for that, not this year.
So they've decided, uncharacteristically for Democrats, to double down. They are piling all this stuff into one big-ticket, high-profile, must-pass bill. Just as there will be "a healthcare bill" -- and not four disparate, complicated healthcare bills only wonks can understand -- there will now be a green economy bill. For it or against it.
I definitely agree that a single green economy bill is harder to demagogue, though Republicans will certainly give it a college try. And if everything is included, then legislators can pick and choose bits they don't like as a means to vote against the bill. But it is unusual to see Democrats go so big on such a big priority. While I think that the Waxman-Markey bill has room for improvement, unquestionably the bill would represent a major step forward.
I like it.