(Ridiculous) image via Radioactive Liberty
Slate's Christopher Beam thinks it could. While many pundits and politicians are wondering if health care reform will be "Obama's Waterloo" (some of whom, including the man who coined the term, are determined to make it so), Beam says that the battle for climate legislation is more likely to take that dubious mantle.Beam writes:
the fate of health care reform lies with the finance committee, where Democratic members of the "Gang of Six" are making concessions--scrapping the public option in favor of a cooperative model, for example--in an attempt to win over Republicans. Similarly, when the Senate reconvenes in September, the fate of climate legislation will come down to a handful of senators hashing out compromises--or watering down the bill, depending on your perspective.More accurately, the senators will be hashing out compromises by watering down the bill. What those compromises will turn out to be remains up in the air--in the House, such "compromises" included drastically lowering the emissions reduction target, granting a generous amount of free pollution permits (nearly all) to coal companies, allowing dubiously effective offsets to take the place of carbon cuts in certain instances, and so on. In a bill that's designed to mitigate climate change, any amendments that lessen its ability to do so can safely be considered to be watering down down the bill. And we can only assume the compromises will be more drastic in the Senate.
Beam then notes that there's the idea that some key Democrats are pushing to split the climate bill into two separate bills; one that mandates a renewable energy standard (and is easy to pass) and one that would set emissions targets and require polluters to pay (and has much less broad support). Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed not to split the bill. But this leaves the bill in a tight spot: conservative Dems have energy and manufacturing interests to protect, Dems from agriculture states want more provisions for ethanol, and a number of Dems already have a history of voting against climate change measures and renewable energy mandates--they add up to at least 12 tough sells.
Point being, even with a few potential Republican votes in favor, there's indeed a serious numbers problem for a climate bill in the Senate. But does all this mean it could be Obama's definitive failure--his Waterloo, as Beam suggests? I tend to think that if the bill 'fails', it will do so by being watered dow--excuse me, compromised--until it's toothless enough to pass. In which case, it'll be less like Waterloo and more like, well, some long, annoying battle that left both sides grumbling. And climate change improperly addressed.