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!