Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Prioritizing, Or, Senate Democrats: Regulating Climate Change, Or Not So Much?

Netroots Nation will be in Las Vegas in just a few weeks; with that in mind we are going to play “piano bar” and fulfill a couple of requests, one today and one tomorrow, from folks who would like to bring a couple of things to your attention.

Today’s topic: climate change.

As you know, there is a lot of legislation floating around Capitol Hill that would begin to use some sort of market-based mechanism to reduce the amount of carbon we emit.

None of it will move unless it moves through the Senate, and today, that’s what we’ll be talking about.

Matter of fact, they will be too.

Oh, there must be a cloud in my head,
Rain keeps falling from my eyes,
Oh, no they can't be teardrops,
For a man ain't supposed to cry.

--From the song Raindrops, by Dee Clark

Climate change is on the minds of Democratic Senators this week in a big way, with a lot of legislative proposals floating around the Hill at the moment. Some of those apply some sort of pricing mechanism to the carbon emissions coming out of the smokestacks of America’s largest polluters (also known as “cap-and-trade”), and that is highly controversial, even among some Senate Democrats.

(If you guessed that Senators Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson are among the objectors…you get a cookie. What you might not expect is that Dianne Feinstein, of California, is also an objector.)

On Tuesday Majority Leader Harry Reid met with a group of Senators seeking to advance climate-change legislation, on Wednesday the Senate Democratic Caucus heard from Reid about the politics of climate change over lunch, and today, a second luncheon will take place.

I’m being told that by the time that lunch is over the Caucus will have decided whether they will, or will not, move forward on climate change legislation this year. The question of whether the bill will include a cap-and-trade provision may well be decided at this luncheon as well.

It’s been difficult to move a bill through the Senate, what with the fact that Republicans have been trying to force virtually every bill that comes before the body to garner 60 votes, and it seems highly unlikely that a bill with a cap-and-trade provision would be able to meet that burden.

One compromise solution might be to pass a smaller bill and then introduce an amendment on the floor that would introduce the cap-and-trade provisions; the logic here being that amendments can be added with a simple majority vote, instead of a 60 vote “supermajority”.

I want to wrap this story up before we get too long, so let’s review where we’ve been, and then bring today’s proceedings to a close:

Climate change legislation is at a critical juncture, and the question of whether the Senate will move forward with anything at all is likely to be decided today.

The options include moving forward with the largest plan possible, a smaller plan that can then be amended to include cap-and-trade, a smaller plan with no cap-and-trade amendment, or no action at all.

If you have an opinion about any of this, and you have a Democratic Senator or two, you need to make a phone call, this morning, to let them know how you feel.

So get to it, right now, as all the reporting suggests the decision is literally going to be made in the next few hours.

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