Climate Action Vs. Health Care Reform: Is it One or the Other?


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They're by far the two highest profile bills to emerge this year: the Waxman-Markey climate bill, and the health care reform bill. Both would have an enormous impact, and both are key parts of President Obama's agenda. But can both of them pass at the same time? Some influential politicians and experts are worried they can't--fighting for both stretch the bills' supporters too thin, and each hog each other's spotlight, they say. So will Obama be forced to throw his weight behind just one major overhaul of the US? From Climatewire:

President Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats have spent the better part of this year juggling legislation on health care and climate change. The two monster initiatives would be significant accomplishments if either one could pass, let alone both. But for now, each remains a long way from the finish line as Republicans and some Democrats push back against bills that have big price tags and questionable public support.
It's no secret that Obama came out the gate last January firing on all cylinders--it's why many Americans were impressed, encouraged, and then (probably too-easily) prone to dissappointment in seemingly more rapid succession then ever before. And that pesky public support is a key issue--remember, regarding the climate bill at least, only 76% of Americans even know what a cap and trade is. And that's the backbone of the entire climate bill. Which brings us to one of the concerned lawmakers' primary worries--many feel that by putting an emphasis on the climate bill before tackling health care reform, the wrong message was sent to voters, many for whom health care hugely outranked a desire to tackle climate change.

With both bills coming in back to back, others are weary that the message has been diluted, making both more vulnerable:

Advocates for the two bills wonder if the combined pitch has zapped away each item’s own strength. And there is also the Republican Party, which is working to score political points by packaging the entire Obama agenda as a grab for big government.
To avoid such labeling, and to make a more pointed pitch, some wonder--or implore--Obama to choose a front-runner to support specifically.
Going forward, some senators say the White House will be instrumental in deciding which bill should have the top billing. "I think so much depends on where the administration is going to be pushing and spending their political capital," said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). "What we're seeing right now from the White House is a very aggressive push on health care. Will they split their time in September and be pushing some folks on health care and some folks on climate change? I don't think you can do that. I think you've got to pick and choose."
To this observer, at least, it seems that Obama's already been doing that--and the frontrunner is health care. While the climate bill was struggling in the House, Obama was noticeably quiet on the issue, until it came time to drum up support right before the vote. He's already devoted more press conferences to health care than to climate change, and he seems to be more willing to use his political capitol to advance health care reform (just speculation, there).

Indeed, things have gotten undeniably more tangled with both health care reform and a climate bill in the fray--and with Waxman-Markey passing by such a slim margin, and already experiencing a month long delay in the Senate, it's passage there is about as far from a sure thing as can be. And with an apparent inclination towards speaking up for health care, there's a strong possibility that Obama could let the climate bill could fall by the wayside this fall when the Senate picks it up again. Which could happen if he feels supporting it could endanger passing health care reform--the bill that's more likely to garner wider public support.

More on the Climate Bill:
Why Passing the Climate Bill is an Ethical Necessity
Who is Talking Crazy About the Climate Bill?

Tags: Barack Obama | Congress | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions | Health Care

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