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Lindsey Graham Steps Up on Climate Change

M1X00212_9.JPGIt looks like Lindsey Graham is really trying to fashion a compromise on climate change legislation. There are a couple other Republican senators who have made encouraging noises, but none of them -- think Alaska's Lisa Murkowski -- have much of a record of standing up to pressure from the base. And I remember full well how many more Republicans there were on health-care reform before the base turned its attention to the issue.

But Graham does have a history of taking heterodox stands and sticking to them, so his willingness to take point is encouraging. It's interesting, incidentally, that each issue seems to have its own Republican defector. Susan Collins brokered the compromise on stimulus. Olympia Snowe is health-care reform. Richard Lugar tends to make deals on foreign policy. And Lindsey Graham is stepping up to the plate on global warming. You almost wonder if it's planned, as it means no single Republican moderate has to take the heat on everything.

Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to get by on climate change with a sole Republican supporter. Too many Democrats hail from coal states. This coalition will have to be more like the coalition that passed the Civil Rights Act, when Northern Republicans provided the majority with the votes that the Southern Democrats attempted to withhold.

Photo credit: By Jonathan Ernst -- Reuters

By Ezra Klein  |  October 15, 2009; 6:21 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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But the bulk of what you can do on global warming involves revenues. Making polluters pay for the costs of the damage and risk they inflict environmentally on others. And it raises revenues. So it seems to fit the qualifications for reconcilliation beautifully. That means just 51 votes required (or 50 plus the V.P. to break the tie?)

Are you saying we can't get 50 Democrats?

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | October 15, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Again, will democrats vote to obstruct democratic initiatives? if they do, break out the pitchforks and torches.

They can vote no, but they can't oppose cloture on their peril and we better make it perilous for the conservadems!

Posted by: srw3 | October 15, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Richard Serlin is right.

Look, the easiest way to do cap-and-trade is to sweeten it with a tax rebate. The rebate need only be temporary if you're worried about long-term deficits, but it would enable the government to (a) do something about climate change -- in fact, the most economically efficient thing that the government can do -- and (b), cover themselves politically.

Posted by: davestickler | October 15, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Are you serious? Matt Taibbi killed cap and trade good and dead once his Goldman Sachs article spelled out GS's plans to make much money on cap and trade. Any Member of Congress stupid enough to vote for cap and trade in this political climate will have a rough time defending their vote. A carbon tax transfer (cutting the payroll tax dollar for dollar raised) is the smarter play.

"The new carbon credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that's been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won't even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance."

Posted by: beowulf_ | October 15, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I think Lindsey Graham is full of.....stuff.

I dont buy for a second that this guy is going to be there when this bill steps onto center stage. Somehow, it will suddenly have veered off into some radical left wing plan that he just cant possibly support. This pathetic need for people in the Democratic party to get approval from various Republicans to govern this country is driving me nuts.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | October 16, 2009 5:52 AM | Report abuse

The critical issue for cap and trade (or a carbon tax, or whatever) is to keep it clean. It needs to treat all carbon dioxide and methane molecules equally regardless of source, and include *all* sources. No free pass for big ag, no federally funded "research" for coal while oil refineries have to pay real money to make real reductions, etc.
If it's nothing more than a vehicle for transferring money from unfavored institutions to more favored ones, it (a) won't work and (b) won't be politically viable.

Posted by: tl_houston | October 16, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

It may also have a little to do with age. Lindsay Graham is going to have to lkive with the consequnces of climate change longer than, say, John McCain. Same with Lisa Murkowski. Although one can largely avoid the consequences of failure on health care reform if one has enough money, climate change is trickier, especially if one hails from a coastal state.

Posted by: Mimikatz | October 16, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

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