Is Clean Energy Reform Dead in the Senate?

us senate climate bill dead photo

You'd be forgiven for thinking so, given the series of misleading articles proclaiming that's the case that have arisen recently. Just last week, I looked at the awful Politico article that attempted to make news out of the fact that some Democrats who had never supported clean energy reform still weren't supporting it now. Anyhow, the mood in the media has seemed to continued to (groundlessly) darken on the climate bill. And so, I'll leave it to policy analysts more experienced than I to explain why the climate bill is NOT dead, but alive and well . . .The New Republic's Bradford Plumer explains the lay of the land for the climate bill in the Senate:

Seems like the conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that there's no way the Senate passes a climate bill in 2010--especially after that long, gory health care battle we just saw. Here's The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza: "No matter what Obama and his advisers said... there is now no chance that the Administration's climate-change proposal will come up for a vote in the Senate prior to the 2010 election. Politicians never like casting controversial votes, but they like doing so even less in an election year."
Sharply worded editorials, of course, are interesting to read. But, as Plumer explains, such dramatic proclamations (like the one in question from the Washington Post) are also often bunk.

Why the Climate Bill is Alive and Well
Here are a few more highlights from his piece (which is a must-read for clean energy reform watchers) that explain why there's still a good chance we'll see the bill come to a vote this year:

  • there don't seem to be any signs that Democrats are planning to relent just yet. A few days ago, Ben Geman of The Hill reported that most of the caucus wants to move on a climate bill, and that includes coal-staters like Arlen Specter.

  • the White House insists it won't stand for "slicing and dicing." They want the full cap.

  • Lindsey Graham is still huddling with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman on a "tripartisan" climate bill

  • [GOP Maine Senator] Susan Collins is co-sponsoring a cap-and-dividend bill

  • curbing carbon pollution does surprisingly well in the polls--and support has held steady for some time now, despite Climategate, GOP attacks on the House bill

He also makes the good point, paraphrasing from Tom Daschle, that it's not even true that politicians inherently shy away from controversial votes during election years--some of the most divisive legislation (welfare reform, Clean Air amendments, etc) passed during election years.

And, finally, he notes the biggest reason that climate is going to remain on the agenda this year: the fact that the EPA is moving to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if Congress doesn't pass a bill. That prospect is already changing the minds of some fence-sitting senators.

Other Analysts on the Climate Bill's Health
The Guardian notes: "Obama's 13 hours on the ground diplomacy at Copenhagen was seen as evidence of his commitment to action -- which should help give momentum to the bill."

Joe Romm, perhaps the utmost authority on climate policy, agrees with Plumer, and is also feeling confident about the climate bill prospects. He ran a piece a couple weeks ago entitled Memo to swing Senators: You are going to vote on a bipartisan, economy-wide climate and clean energy jobs bill this spring. Get over it. And today, he writes, "the bill is still alive and kicking, as I've been saying . . . I certainly agree it would be harder in 2011 or 2012, since the Dems are likely to lose some two dozen House seats and possibly a few Senate seats (albeit some to "moderates"). If you want a bill, this is the year to pull out all the stops."

It's still facing a tough fight, but the last thing we should do is count out the Senate climate bill now.

More on the Senate Climate Bill
The 5-Minute Guide to the Senate Climate Bill
Senate Climate Bill Progress Report: "Definite Republican Votes"

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