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Brown Dogs Poised To Block Green Economy Legislation

Conservative Democrats in the 50-member Blue Dog Coalition are poised to block or weaken critical green economy legislation as it moves to the House floor. The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) was approved by Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) energy committee after Blue Dogs and other “brown” Democrats successfully lightened the bill’s clean energy standards and funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to polluting industry. Blue Dog Collin Peterson (D-MN), chair of the Agriculture Committee, has threatened to block the bill if his demands on behalf of industrial agriculture are not met:

At some point it could become an issue where the leadership has to deal with these issues in order to get enough votes to pass it. But if they don’t want to change it, they’ll have to find the votes some other place. In my district, a ‘no’ vote would be a good vote.

Peterson has claimed he has “40 to 45 votes” against the legislation. Fellow Blue Dog and agriculture committee member Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) warned, “I don’t think he is bluffing. He has got the support he says he has.” In a remarkable coincidence, it would take 39 Democrats to thwart the legislation, as Democrats hold a 78-seat majority in the House.

Grist’s Jonathan Hiskes draws from an empirical analysis of polluter influence on Congress to identify nine key conservative Democrats at the center of the ideological spectrum on climate issues, seven of whom are Blue Dogs:

Let’s call them the Carbon Nine: Jason Altmire (Pennsylvania), Rick Boucher (Virginia), Artur Davis (Alabama), Baron Hill (Indiana), Charlie Melancon (Louisiana), Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota), Mike Ross (Arkansas), John Tanner (Tennessee), and Gene Taylor (Mississippi).

Of the four members who sit on the energy committee, Hill and Boucher voted in favor of the bill and Melancon and Ross voted against. All four Democrats voting against Waxman-Markey — Melancon, Ross, Jim Matheson (D-UT) and John Barrow (D-GA) — are Blue Dogs.

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Hiskes drew his “Carbon Nine” from a draft paper by UCLA Institute of the Environment’s Matthew Kahn and the Brattle Group’s Michael Cragg, “Carbon Geography: The Political Economy of Congressional Support for Legislation Intended to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Production.” The economists also found that ideology and pollution are strongly linked:

— A one standard deviation increase in a county’s representative’s conservative ideology is associated with a five percent increase in county carbon emissions.

— The average Republican in Congress represents a district whose carbon emissions are 14 percent higher than the average Democrat in Congress.

— The average Republican member of the Energy and Commerce Committee represents a district whose carbon emissions are 21 percent higher than the average Democrat on this committee.

The study reveals why Waxman skipped over the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Ed Markey to markup their bill in full committee: The average Democrat on the subcommittee “represents a district whose per-capita carbon emissions are 31 percent higher than the average Democrat in Congress.”