Senate battle 2: Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he won’t filibuster climate bill

Everybody has assumed we would need 60 votes to pass a climate bill in the Senate. As one Democratic senator told me recently, the Republicans now filibuster pretty much everything — even bills and amendments supported by most of their members, just to slow the process down as much as possible and minimize the time available for Democrats to achieve any legislative successes. Such is the GOP’s audacity of nope.

But TPM reports:

Despite opposing cloture on a previous cap and trade bill, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says that — whether he supports the underlying bill or not — he won’t support a filibuster of climate change legislation this Congress.

“I’m not going to be part of a filibuster on climate change,” Brown told me today. Brown voted against ending debate on the Lieberman-Warner bill in 2007, but he says he did that because the bill had no real chance of making it to the floor, and opposing cloture was his way of expressing his objection to aspects of that legislation.

“I was not blocking the bill from having a hearing on the floor, because it wasn’t gonna get to that,” Brown said. “I wanted to show that I don’t support this bill unless you take care of American manufacturing.”

I consider this a semi-big deal.

I do think it likely that Brown will actually vote for the final bill [ — yes, I will publish some posts on the Senate swing votes shortly]. But by saying he will act responsibly on this, he does create pressure on other Democrats to do the same.

Memo to Obama (and Reid): You should be extracting anti-filibuster promises from every single Democrat who wants Obama’s support either for reelection or for their own favorite bills.

It will aslo be interesting to see if McCain supports a filibuster. Yes, he is currently demagogue against the “giveaways” in the House bill — in spite of the fact that his own supposedly “purist” climate legislation never got more than 43 votes. Joining the filibuster of the climate bill would certainly make McCain the greatest hypocrite in the history of the Senate, which is saying a lot.

I would also add that I think Sen. Boxer’s decision to delay markup until September is a sign that she is really serious. She could have very easily just modified Waxman-Markey a bit and passed it out of the Environment and Public Works committee. But she clearly wants to work with moderates to craft a bill that could actually serve as the basis of passable legislation in the Senate.

Here is the rest of the TPM story:

Brown’s declaration is significant if not entirely unexpected. A number of Democrats from coal, oil, and manufacturing states have been either resistant or outright opposed to significant action on climate change in recent years. But Democrats are more aware of that fact than ever. And as critical as some liberals and environmentalists were of a number of pre-vote concessions, the Waxman-Markey bill, which recently passed in the House, was designed in collaboration with just those sorts of Democrats — and crucially, Democrats from states whose senators have been on the fence on the issue in the past.

They’ve noticed the difference. “I thought that Waxman was unbelievably adept,” Brown said.

But that doesn’t mean the process will be easy. Some key questions remain to be answered, such as: What language will the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee use as a legislative starting point? How closely will that chamber’s process mimic the Waxman-Markey process? And will Democrats — even those who oppose the final bill — agree to oppose a GOP filibuster?

On that last question, Brown is saying yes.

Unlike some progressives, Brown understands how difficult passing climate legislation is in the real world as opposed to, say, the blogosphere. That’s why Dems like Waxman deserve praise and support, not condemnation and opposition.

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