Back on June 21, I wrote, “It’s alive! An energy bill that puts a price on carbon is now officially undead.”
Back then, my sources gave the chances for passage this year of comprehensive energy legislation that included a cap on utility greenhouse gas emissions as 50-50. But that presupposed a very hard push — messaging and arm-twisting — from Obama and his team. Since that hasn’t happened, we’re now probably at best 50-50 for any energy bill at all!
True, the Politico reported today, “Reid warms to July climate vote”:
Senate Democratic leaders are set to roll the dice this month on a comprehensive energy and climate bill, including a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants, even though they don’t yet have the 60 votes needed to move the controversial plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confirmed Tuesday that he would gamble on the high-stakes legislation “” much as he undertook health care and Wall Street reform “” that for now remains in the rough-draft stage but that will soon be the subject of intense negotiations.
“Whatever I bring to the floor, I want to get 60 votes,” Reid told POLITICO shortly after announcing his strategy for a full Senate debate as early as the week of July 26.
Reid confirmed the bill will have four parts: an oil spill response; a clean-energy and job-creation title based on work done in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; a tax package from the Senate Finance Committee; and a section that deals with greenhouse gas emissions from the electric utility industry.
“In this stage, we’ve not completed it. But we’re looking at a way that’s making sure when we talk about pollution, it’ll focus just on the utility sector,” Reid said.
But the question is, who precisely is going to twist arms to get 60 votes. The Politico’s own “Whip count” lists five Democrats as “Probably No’s.” These Profiles in Cowardice are:
- Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
- Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
- Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
- Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
- John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.)
“Probable No” may be generous, given that they include John McCain on that list. But then Politico includes Lisa Murkowski as a fence sitter, perhaps so the total of ‘possible yes’ votes hits 61. They also include the incoherent one as a fence sitter too, but Lindsey Graham is more like a dancing-on-the-head-of-a-needle guy, than a fence sitter (see In the mother of all flip-flops, Graham rejects his own climate bill, endorses Lugar’s “half-assed energy bill,” which means he “just made the problem worse”).
In any case, at least five R’s are needed, and Reid can’t deliver 3/4 of the likes of Lugar and Voinovich and Gregg and Brown — assuming one gets the needle dancer and his backup singers from Maine. And in case you thought those singers were all on key, here’s Politics Daily from Tuesday:
Although Democrats point most frequently to Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe as a possible Republican ally on the issue, Snowe she said Tuesday that she’s not interested in the job of winning over other GOP senators.
“I’m not sure I’m the gateway to anything,” she said, adding that she’s open — but not committed to — supporting a utility-only carbon cap.
“I think there is a possibility of an energy bill with efficiency and conservation and renewables, and perhaps from there you could reach a point of addressing utilities-only,” she said. “Even then, I’m not so sure given the skepticism that’s been expressed by so many about pricing carbon…. First and foremost, you don’t want to pose a greater cost on consumers in any way.”
Yeah, nobody’s gonna be writing her up in an updated Profiles in Courage either.
So who precisely is going to make the case one-on-one about the moral imperative to do even this absurdly too-little utility cap, applying whatever carrots and sticks can be found? Everybody knows The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod).
That means there’s only one person on the face of the earth who can possibly do it, and it’s no secret who that is — Podesta letter to Obama: “Nothing less than your direct personal involvement, and that of senior administration officials, can secure America’s clean energy future.”
But that letter was two weeks ago. As the Politico itself reported today:
Lieberman told reporters that the push toward the 60 votes would require more effort from President Barack Obama and his top advisers.
“We want them more engaged,” Lieberman said.
Obama administration officials are already in the middle of the fight. Reid, for example, met Tuesday with White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. But the issue didn’t come up when 15 top Senate Democrats, including Reid, met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday, said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
“It was not a specific legislative agenda meeting,” Durbin said. “It was a meeting about our end game here as the session draws to a close and what we plan on doing together.”
At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that the lack of talk about energy and climate during the president’s meeting with senators shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of interest by the administration.
“Energy is something, obviously, that will come up before the Senate leaves, as will a number of things, like [Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena] Kagan and “” and other things,” Gibbs told reporters. “I expect the president will be active in that debate.”
I expected that too — a year ago, six months ago, even a few weeks ago! Seriously, Gibbs, you can only hit the snooze alarm so many times before the whole damn alarm clock breaks.
It is ironic that a man his opponents accused of being some sort of uber-big-government socialist takes a laissez-faire approach to defining issue of our time and of his presidency.
So, at the risk of mixing my metaphors like so much dispersant on an oil gusher, this is not a game that you can win by sitting back and shooting a few three pointers at the end after the other team has put up a 30-point lead.
The clock is being run out, folks. Put in your play maker now and give him the ball. Otherwise nobody will actually think you were ever interested in winning.