Breaking: Senators Say No Climate Bill in 2010!
Citing that Democratic senators are exhausted from passing health care reform, reports claiming that there will now be no climate bill in 2010 are surfacing. Politico exclaims Senate Democrats to W.H.: Drop cap-and-trade. Talking Points Memo's headline reads Moderate Dems: Climate Change Bill in 2010? Fuggedaboutit. And there are many more. Nearly all of them include quotes from senators saying they think a climate bill is unlikely in 2010, and some appear to conclude that could indeed be the case. But these reports are extremely misleading. There's a simple reason that these reports are essentially non-stories: and to find it, just look at the senators quoted in them. The Democratic senators that the stories frames as suddenly wanting to halt progress on the climate bill have, it turns out, always wanted to halt progress on the climate bill. From day one. Senators from conservative rust belt or agriculture heavy states like Mary Landrieu, Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson--the very ones these stories are built around--have been opposed to climate action from the beginning. That they're calling for the White House to drop the cap and trade now is hardly news: they did the same thing as soon as the debate began in the Senate last summer, and they've been doing so at regular intervals up through the present.
In fact, these senators have been counted out of the 67 possible 'yea' votes that have been tallied by various sources--where some Republican senators have been counted in.
So Why the No-Climate Bill Narrative?
It may be that some news orgs (Politico in particular) may have sought a new angle on the well combed-over health care reform story, and came up with this weak narrative about how it's sapped the Democrats' will to do anything else--but that just doesn't seem to be the case.
In fact, the senators are citing close to the exact same reasons for postponing work on a climate bill now that they were before: the ol' 'we need to focus on the economy first' message. One thing is clear, however--Democrat senators that were against clean energy reform before Copenhagen and the health care proceedings certainly haven't warmed up to the idea any now.
Senate Climate Bill Will Stagger On
But that doesn't mean a bill is dead in the water--far from it. GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham and the currently Democrat-despised Independent Joe Lieberman are both supporting the bill alongside John Kerry. The Republican senators from Maine (Collins, Snowe) could join in. Those six Democrats opposing cap and trade--yes, there are only six confirmed nay-sayers, though the stories seem to blur this fact for dramatic effect--may turn out not to be so instrumental in the final vote count. And a few could likely be persuaded to join with the caucus (Bayh, Pryor) even if others can't be.
Point is, Senators Reid, Kerry, Boxer, Graham, and Lieberman aren't going to abandon the bill, which is currently scheduled to be brought to the floor next spring, just because the same vocal opponents of cap and trade within the Democratic party are continuing to vocally oppose it now. Don't get me wrong, it's still going to be ugly--likely comparable to the health care proceedings--and it's still going to be a struggle. But it's unlikely the White House is going to be so easily persuaded to drop the issue either.
As Climate Progress's Joe Romm puts it, "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." I hope he's right.