I realize that in the blogging world you get no credit for claiming things after-the-fact. But what has been obvious to some of us for a while is now I think becoming painfully obvious to the White House and Congressional Democrats: A serious climate bill is politically easier than a serious health care bill.
The reason is simple. It comes down to three letters of the alphabet — CBO. The climate bill always had one big advantage — it pays for itself. Most of the serious health care reform options on the table, however, add more than $1 trillion to the federal budget deficit according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Making climate action deficit neutral is easy. Making healthcare deficit neutral ain’t, especially if you want to deal with those 50 million uninsured Americans.
And even though healthcare appears to be a more politically popular issue, major reform of the system in fact does not appear to be more popular than clean energy and environmental protection.
Yes, I know that many progressives are rightfully unhappy with the compromises that have been made in the Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill. But all I can say is, wait until you see the compromises that will be made to pass a deficit-neutral health care bill. Such is life inside the Washington DC beltway when one entire political party is not just dead set against all efforts to solve the nation’s major problems, but demagogues against the most important strategies. That sharply narrows the political space in which action can take place.
And yes, we haven’t passed the climate bill through both houses yet — or even one! But I think we will, especially as the White House comes to recognize the political reality and ramps up its lobbying and messaging effort for the Senate debate in the fall.