As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waxman-Markey Off The Gurney, Onto The Floor

All of a sudden, we're going to have the Waxman-Markey bill on the floor of the US House, as early as Friday, even as negotiations continue with rural Dems who want to keep extracting whatever they can from the bill. It's a very odd moment, considering that the bill was literally called "dead" over the weekend.

The speaker filed the legislation with the Rules Committee on Monday night, her spokesman said, even though its authors, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, are still working out a deal with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.

"The bill has been filed tonight with the Rules Committee," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in an e-mail. "There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday."

The speaker, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Waxman and Peterson "have all agreed on this approach for moving this historic climate change and clean energy jobs bill," Hammill continued.

The Hill speculates on whether it has the votes. I suppose the surprise vote has its merits, in that the opposition is diffuse and unready for a major fight. Then again, the allies of this bill, environmentalists, are at odds over whether it makes sense to pass at all:

Some believe the bill is so deeply flawed it might actually make matters worse; disillusionment with the bill is causing fierce recriminations within the environmental movement and has led to a knockdown, drag-out fight within the Sierra Club.

“This situation represents much more than just a normal legislative fight,” says former Sierra Club president Larry Fahn, who as a current board member has argued that the bill has been watered down to the point of being unsalvageable. “It’s about the core of what we’re now fighting for, and who we are.” [...]

Many environmentalists blame Waxman-Markey’s flaws on the United States Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), a coalition of industry and moderate environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council that, during the last years of the Bush administration, quietly hammered out what has become the bill’s framework. Sierra Club board member M.K. Dorsey, a professor of global environmental policy at Dartmouth, calls the environmentalists in US-CAP “well-meaning liberals who do not pay enough attention to political economy.” He adds: “They got out-maneuvered, they got hoodwinked, because they were in over their head.”

US-CAP’s approach hasn’t shifted along with the political climate in Washington, says Michelle Chan, a program director with Friends of the Earth (FoE), a left-of-center environmental group. Given that US-CAP’s environmental members “signed a deal in blood” with companies such as Shell and Duke Energy before the election, “the new politics of Obama never played out in this scenario,” she says. “So the deal doesn't move the ball forward now. We're stuck.”

Other enviros disagree. “I absolutely do not know what people are smoking when they argue that the political climate is different now,” counters Manik Roy, vice president for federal government outreach at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a founding member of US-CAP. “We have huge parts of this country that generate electricity from coal, and that are very dependent on manufacturing—none of that has changed.” Nor has the American public’s willingness to overcome those interests, he adds. “Poll after poll is showing that we don’t have a critical mass in this country who are concerned about the urgency of climate change. Until that changes, I think this bill is truly the best we can get in this economic environment.”

I'm not sure where I fall on this argument, and it seems amazing to me that the bill will hit the floor while that conversation plays out. Of course, passing the House and getting to the President's desk are two different things, and even if this gets through the House, it will probably sit on a shelf for a while as the Senate deals with health care.

I don't really have a good recommendation on how to handle this: Waxman-Markey is the only game in town, yet it is certainly flawed in many key respects.

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