White House endorses Waxman-Markey, Senate Majority Whip Durbin says he doesn’t have 60 votes for it — House GOP keeps lying

The White House today offered its endorsement to the 648-page draft climate and energy bill unveiled by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.”President Obama is committed to an energy policy that launches a new sector of clean energy jobs, makes our economy more competitive, and weans the nation off its dependence on foreign oil,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail. “While we are still reviewing the details, it is clear that Chairman Waxman’s legislation would advance all of those goals, and the president looks forward to working with members of Congress in both chambers to pass a bill that would transition the nation to a clean energy economy.”

So reports E&E News PM (subs. req’d, excerpted below) reports on the new House climate bill (see “First impression of Waxman-Markey” for more details).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she’d try to get GOP votes, but wouldn’t hold the bill up waiting for them.

“We would hope to have Republican votes as we go forward on this,” Pelosi said. “Will I not put it forth unless I do? No. No. There’s an inevitability to this that everyone has to understand.”… House Republican leaders signaled little interest in working with Democrats on the climate and energy bill.

Duh. Then E&E News PM reprinted the standard conservative lie:

“The Democrats’ plan to raise energy taxes in the midst of a serious recession is the wrong thing to do and the worst possible time to do it,” said Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The media simply needs to stop repeating this lie.

First off, Waxman-Markey doesn’t even kick in until 2012 — long after this recession will be over. But the timing is never right for Republicans anyway, since when the economy is booming and oil prices are high because of decades of do nothing conservative energy policies, the GOP also says we can’t raise energy prices.

Second, this isn’t an energy tax. It is a comprehensive energy and climate bill. While prices for dirty energy will go up, people can keep their energy bills from going up with the many energy efficiency measures in this legislation (see “Introduction to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar“). Third, the president made clear in his budget that the majority of the money raised in auctioning the CO2 permits will be returned to consumers in the form of a tax cut.

That means the majority of Americans will be directly held harmless — and they can actually end up ahead through the combination of the tax cut and energy efficiency.

Some version of this bill seems likely to get through the House. But it does not appear likely it could get 60 votes in the Senate. The two big unknown questions are

  1. Is Obama going to try to change the political equation by using his persuasive skills and that of his cabinet to make a strong pitch for climate action (see “Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010“)?
  2. Will some of the moderate Democratic Senators who might feel they can’t vote for the bill also vote to filibuster it?

Here is more from E&E News PM on the Senate side of things:

Senate Dems don’t have 60 votes — Durbin

While Waxman and Markey have plenty of work to do in moving their legislation, there is little doubt they eventually will win over enough votes to secure its passage on the House floor.

It is another story entirely in the Senate, where GOP members today were pushing floor amendments on the fiscal 2010 budget resolution that would effectively halt consideration of any climate legislation this year.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) criticized the Senate GOP lawmakers for taking that position. But he also challenged his own moderate Senate Democrats not to block the issue when it comes up later this year.

“Some of them are not looking at the big picture here,” Durbin said. “And the big picture is we’ve got to face this controversial issue, and we have to face the fact that an honest answer, with the hard facts, tossing out the convenient myths, is the only way to get to a solution.”

Durbin said Senate Democratic leaders do not have the necessary 60 votes to beat a filibuster on a climate bill, and he differed with House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who said last week that climate legislation could move faster this year than a major overhaul to health care.

“I hope Charlie is right in the House, but I don’t think that’s the case in the Senate,” Durbin said. “Because the fact is we don’t have 60 votes. Clearly, there are four, five, six Republicans who we saw are willing to stand in front of C-SPAN, God and the world and say flat out we don’t want to do anything.”

Asked how close Senate Democrats are to securing 60 votes on climate legislation, Durbin replied, “I don’t know. We need some more.”

As for the Waxman-Markey proposal, House Democrats see their measure as a springboard to action in the Senate.

“Our goal is to resolve the energy and environmental issues all in one bill, because ultimately we believe that’s the frame that has to work and we think ultimately that will make it easier for the Senate to put together a coalition that can pass legislation,” Markey said.

But a large number of senators took a different view.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to be done here, but my guess is it’ll be done differently than in the House,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a longtime co-sponsor of climate legislation, said the Waxman-Markey proposal presses a bit more aggressively on emission limits than anything capable of passing the Senate.

“I would support something slightly different,” Lieberman said. “But look, it’s very important to start this process and I think if Chairman Waxman can get a bill out of his committee before Memorial Day, which I believe is his goal, is a step forward. I don’t think what he’s proposing will pass the, will get 60 votes in the Senate, so we’re going to have to deal with that, but it’s a beginning.”

Several senators also rejected the idea of clumping energy and climate into one package akin to how the House has addressed the issue.

“I don’t think this is the best way to proceed at all,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noting that an energy bill can spur renewables development and efficiency that helps with subsequent emissions curbs.

“I feel very strongly we should do an energy bill first, which moves you in the direction of climate change,” Dorgan said.

If the Senate does do two bills, that will guarantee no final climate bill until 2010, since the House would have to go back and disaggregate its bill, and then vote on an energy bill, reconcile it with the Senate, vote on it again — and then do the same thing with the climate part!

7 Responses to White House endorses Waxman-Markey, Senate Majority Whip Durbin says he doesn’t have 60 votes for it — House GOP keeps lying

  1. Joel says:

    Many in the youth climate movement (I’m looking in particular at the talk on It’s Getting Hot In Here) are organizing around pushing first and foremost for an even stronger bill, with 40% reductions by 2020 on the part of Annex 1 countries (as advocated by China, the G-77, and the representatives of the small island and least developed nations.) The youth activists I read seem pretty unlikely to support anything that compromises the future existence of the small island nations in particular. This strikes me as perfectly justifiable, but I wonder what it will accomplish (not to come off as cynical).

    From a ‘what can I do as a young climate activist with few responsibilities and impediments to devoting my time to this work’ standpoint, I aks: is there any chance we could see such a commitment (to 40% reductions from Annex 1 countries,) or do you (and others) think it’s more strategic to organize around convincing potential swing Republican senators? Or are they simply beyond the pale and not worth the effort? Basically, with regards to citizen action, what is the most tactical approach here?

  2. david says:

    Nothing short of a constant state of political, social, and economic revolution will get us where we need to go in the time we have to get there.

    At the very least, we should be throwing shoes at every opportunity and teaching our children of all ages to stop following leaders, to seek and understand the energy and climate facts for themselves, and to take every action that seems to them viable.

    There is a term for our leaders’ sense of vision. It is called ’empty field myopia’. In this case it appears most often self-induced. Our vision has not been any better. We have trusted those we believed knew better than we what should be done about energy, climate, real estate and finance.

    Shame on us ‘just plain folks’.

    I was one of far too many who gave up the revolution when Nixon ended the draft. The military/industrial threat identified to us by D. Eisenhower remained intact, because what should have been just beginning was ended with the end of the draft.

    The draft will return, as will all of the military, political and economic trouble that we talked about so often and so intensely before we voluntarily gave in and gave up our last historical chance to really, really, change the world.

    We have that chance again around energy and climate for the world as a single neighborhood. This time we must not vote with our feet; but we can start with our shoes.

  3. Peter Wood says:

    The 20% reduction on 2005 levels target in Waxman-Markey is an improvement on the “1990 levels by 2020” target announced in the Obama-Biden campaign. My estimate is that it will amount to a 7% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020. In other words, the US would achieve its Kyoto target by 2020 instead of 2010.

    While the target is inadequate, there are two very good things about this bill. Firstly that it signals a willingness by the administration to go beyond the very poor “1990 levels by 2020” target. Secondly, the legislation does not rule out deeper targets; the legislation states (p. 327):

    in 2020, the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions does not exceed 80 percent of the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions in 2005;

    Because the US and some other developed countries are not committing to very deep targets, it is unlikely that developing countries will take on significant targets. It therefore is unlikely that a very good agreement will be negotiated at Copenhagen. I therefore suggest that we need a mechanism for nations to tighten targets after Copenhagen without having to engage in major renegotiation.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Nice to see Durbin, the head Senator from a Coal state (IL), speaking in such a forthright manner about the Climate Change issue.

  5. Jim Bullis says:

    It is certainly time to get over debating about whether there is a problem.

    There is some room for disagreement about how urgent it is that we respond and to what degree we must make changes. Clearly changes need to be big, but there is always a choice between big and bigger still.

    But the choice of actions is clearly something that needs some real thought. The obvious solutions that are on the table are going to be hideously expensive. And no, this expense is not like a loan guarantee that could well not cost anything.

    Even still we are obligated to take effective action; I see a danger that seriously overspending will end in a burden that could also be too much for future generations to handle. Such overspending is especially bad if it is not necessary and will still not get the job done. Consider that a badly crafted set of solutions could well poison the political water for future solutions that could actually be a lot better. It is time to think, not about the seriousness of the problem, but about what are the appropriate solutions.

    The improved grid is not needed if we stop thinking about central power plants and start thinking about distributed power generation. The fact is that this could be much more efficient than the way we do things now. Wind mills are efficient from a fuel point of view unless you count the greenbacks that fuel the initial cost and maintenance. So it is time to look for better ways.

    Similarly, electric cars etc. are not what they seem. It would take a couple of trillion dollars to build enough wind mills to make the electric power needed to drive these not come from coal. Instead, we could change the car to only need a small amount of energy, and directly cut the use of gasoline, hence oil and CO2.

    A plan is suggested at that includes low cost solutions. These meet my standard as being affordable. Along with these, insulation improvements are certainly valid, though the way these get affordable are when they come with new construction. Since buildings are not turned over as fast as cars, this tends to make this a relatively slow solution.

    I especially am reluctant to send Boone Pickens a gift of a few hundred billion dollars.

    But on to thinking about our cultural problem. Although fixing CO2 is urgent, I resist the urge to commit huge funding to the obvious, but ready solutions, which could end up acting like toxic debt on future generations.

    Hopefully we could see Congress sponsoring something more like preliminary design engineering, this being serious, well funded, and widely inclusive of real ideas, but still a bit short of over-reaction.

  6. Peter Wood says:

    It is good that the US is willing to also reduce emissions from international deforestation by 10% of 2005 emissions by 2020. It is important that these emission reductions are additional to the other emission reductions. This may make a comprehensive international agreement more likely.

  7. AJs Daddie says:

    Part of the reason the bill can’t get enough votes is that it’s a bad bill at a bad time! Since the jury is still out on AGW (everything from ice growth in Antarctica to the melting Martian ice caps), creating a massive tax on energy production in the midst of a historic recession is something that’s hard to foist upon any working person. Hence the huge pushback from the taxpayers.

    Before we rush to create yet another gigantic, fraud-ready government program, let’s let the scientists do their thing and come up with a predictive model that can make at least one real prediction.