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Climate change bill in a tough spot

Last night, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman appeared on John King's CNN program to promote their climate bill, the American Power Act. The transcript is fairly lengthy, but at no point does King ask them to explain the provisions of their bill. Instead, he begins by asking whether they have 60 votes, tries to get them to explain why John McCain isn't on the legislation, and then asks them to comment on the Sestak-Specter race in Pennsylvania. In fact, the clip the John King show posted online (which I embedded above) doesn't even mention the climate bill.

I'm not trying to pick on King here. Right now, The Washington Post has a story about hemp on the front page, but nothing about the American Power Act. And the sad thing is, this is not unexpected: It's predictable. To merge "Scarface" and "Schoolhouse Rock" for a moment, first you get the votes and/or the White House, then you get the coverage, and then you get the power.

The political situation for climate change looks genuinely dire. Kerry and Lieberman lost their alliance with Lindsey Graham, they're competing with financial regulation and jobs and Greece, the election is muscling its way into the headlines and they're getting no backup from the White House. President Obama has not used the BP spill to advance the cause, and today, one day after Kerry and Lieberman released their bill, he's in Buffalo talking jobs, not climate. So they don't have the votes, the bipartisan coalition or the bully pulpit.

But the bill they have is built for an environment where they have all three. This is not the sort of simple, clean bill that lends itself to a public-education campaign or moral exhortation. Their legislation -- the best summary is probably here -- is complicated. It's the product of a hundred different negotiations, all of them stacked on top of one another. It's the bill you use to cut the deal. In that, it's like the health-care bill: Ugly with all sorts of arguably necessary compromises.

There was a theory to that, at least originally. When Graham was on the bill, the idea was that this legislation gives business all sorts of things it wants (particularly preemption of state cap-and-trade initiatives and protection against the EPA regulating carbon emissions) and that Graham and the business community would combine forces to try to drag a couple of Republicans over. Without Graham, Kerry and Lieberman are left with all the problems of a compromised bill, but none of the votes the compromise was supposed to secure and none of the White House support that they rightfully expected. And when you don't have the votes or the president, it's hard to get coverage and that, in turn, makes it hard to build support.

Update: CNN e-mails to note that Jon King did give a quick overview of the bill, but it was in the introduction to the interview, not the interview itself, which is why it didn't show up in the transcript. You can read it here, though.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 13, 2010; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Next: Tom Toles is worth a thousand words

Comments

So what's the deal with the president?

Posted by: scarlota | May 13, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Why didn't Kerry and Lieberman wait until after the election?

Posted by: jduptonma | May 13, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I know the GOP may take over the Senate, but they might be able to get Graham back on board, and the legislation is a compromise anyway.

Posted by: jduptonma | May 13, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I sure hope the Dems have a Plan B somewhere. A set of fixes to the Clean Air Act that clarify EPA's ability to do things like tailor their standards to large emitters, for example. These are tiny, formal changes that you could stick onto an appropriations bill or something, but would go a LONG way to making sure EPA is able to craft a working climate policy under the CAA. Because it's sure looking like that's the one and only law that's going to be used here.

Posted by: NS12345 | May 13, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"I know the GOP may take over the Senate, but they might be able to get Graham back on board, and the legislation is a compromise anyway."

It doesn't matter if the Dems keep the Senate. The filibuster math will be even harder, and they'll never get the resulting law through a Teabagger-Republican dominated House. Unless something completely crazy happens, we're not going to see any particularly big legislation pass Congress until after 2012 (MAYBE deficit reduction).

The next two years are going to be all about the Executive Branch, so I hope Dems use the rest of their time to make sure agencies can act as effectively as possible.

Posted by: NS12345 | May 13, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Kerry and Lieberman don't have the votes, the coalition, the bully pulpit OR THE SCIENCE on their side. All they have is cupidity. But that might be enough.

Posted by: Miner49er | May 13, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"first you get the votes and/or the White House, then you get the coverage, and then you get the power."

Good thing we have such an active and engaged citizenry or we might start to see some fallout from this order of operations.

Posted by: slag | May 13, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

American taxpayers have about exhausted their capacity to serve as the sacrificial anode for lawmakers and their special interests. That's the reason this "American Power Act" won't light up this current economic twilight anytime soon--or ever, I hope.

Posted by: walk2write | May 13, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Please do pick on King.

Posted by: bcbulger | May 13, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Not that anything you say is wrong, but just because Kerry and Lieberman go on King's show to promote their climate bill doesn't mean that's why King had them on.

Isn't that one of the biggest complaints about today's TV journalism? That politicians and those looking to promote an agenda are allowed to dictate the programming?

On the other hand, I'm with bcbulger; I have no problem with you picking on King.

Posted by: dpurp | May 13, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Good points Ezra. Another viewpoint. I am a PR guy and we train our clients all the time on messaging and answering the questions you want to be asked and deflecting questions to your advantage. I blame Kerry and Lieberman for not sticking to their message and talking points. They should control the conversation rather than let King ask random questions unrelated to the reason why they are on.

This is especially true in a TV interview when they can say what they want when given time to speak. Print is different since the reporter control what is quoted.

Evidence of this. Obama is president, kerry is not.

Posted by: fiorehoffmann | May 13, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, leftist like you have no shame when promoting the radical progressive view on climate change. I'm sure you have never read any report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And even worse, most likely you probably can't even comprehend the data if you bothered to ever to try. Thus, you rely upon fantasy documentaries like "An Inconvenient Truth" for your facts - Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about GB.

It's interesting that Gore now owns two homes located in California that have ocean views which the former VP has stated will be flooded because of a sea rise caused by Global Warming (GB) as soon as 2020.

It's laughable that you recommended the Think Progress' "Wonk Room" which is a project of the "Center for American Progress Action Fund" that's headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Pres. Clinton - all far left-wingers.

Of course, those of us with actual science degrees who understand the data and reached a conclusion that Anthropogenic Global Warming is nothing more than a fear-mongering campaign for political power supported by zealot scientists that keeps the grant monies flowing to them and their organizations, yet we are LABELED as GB DENIERS by progressive journalists and pundits.

At least I can say I have studied the data on GB from both sides, but you only rely upon the data cited by left-wing fanatics.

Posted by: Conservator | May 13, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"... left with all the problems of a compromised bill, but none of the votes the compromise was supposed to secure and none of the White House support that they rightfully expected."

A too-oft-repeated scenario with THIS Administration and THIS Congress.

Posted by: onewing1 | May 13, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, according to Conservator, 95% of scientists are "left wing fanatics." I guess it all goes back to facts having a liberal bias.

It continues to amaze me about how blase conservatives are about the security issues inherent in both financing petro-states and in destabilization from climate change.

Posted by: etdean1 | May 13, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

President Obama hopes for an energy and global warming bill this year and put his name behind a new Senate proposal today. "Americans know what's at stake by continuing our dependence on fossil fuels," Obama said in a statement. "But the challenges we face -- underscored by the immense tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico -- are reason to redouble our efforts to reform our nation's energy policies."

It is my hope that the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster captures public attention and inspires the Senate to act on Kerry-Lieberman’s bill that will mean serious reform of our current “drill, baby, drill” energy approach. Today we spend almost one billion dollars every day on foreign oil. This is money we should invest here at home to develop our own sources of renewable energy, enhance our security, and create millions for sustainable American jobs. It’s time for Washington to put the interests of our nation before the interests of Bil Oil – and their own.

Posted by: mlarmoreEDF | May 13, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Lindsey Graham = P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E
Lindsey Graham = B-I-G G-O-V-E-R-N-M-E-N-T
Lindsey Graham = G-L-O-B-A-L G-O-V-E-R-N-A-N-C-E
Lindsey Graham = NOT A TAX AND SPENDER. JUST A SPENDER.

I hope and pray every day that Lindsey Graham grows a pair and rams through the climate bill. Follow your heart Lindsey we all know who you are now and 2014 cannot get here soon enough. We will bring you your moving boxes personally to Washington.

Putting anything on pause is futile your record is being exposed and you will be centerfold fodder soon enough.

We the people promise you this; You will answer to us and no one else.

Posted by: sillynewsdude | May 13, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I think Al Gore and company has profited enough off this.

Posted by: peterg73 | May 13, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: etdean1 | May 13, 2010 12:05 PM

Apparently, according to Conservator, 95% of scientists are "left wing fanatics." I guess it all goes back to facts having a liberal bias.

It continues to amaze me about how blase conservatives are about the security issues inherent in both financing petro-states and in destabilization from climate change.
**************************************************************************************
Hey pal, the only thing your comment proves is your ignorance. If you believe that 95% of scientists agree with findings of people like Gore (a politician), the IPCC or organizations like John Podesta's Climate Progress on Anthropogenic Global Warming, then you are just another MSM spoon-fed dolt who knows nothing on the subject - especially the data and the Earth's history of climate change.

Posted by: Conservator | May 13, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

My bad, i looked at the survey numbers, and I was wrong:

Of scientists who study the climate, 97% believe in anthropogenic climate change. The survey results for the remainder of the US geoscientist population is a mere 82%.

I'm also waiting for any kind of knowledge based refutation of the theory of anthropogenic climate change. I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but every time there's a climate article several of them jump in with the same nonsense.

And lets be real, reducing our use of oil in particular has a huge security benefit. What's the response there?

Posted by: etdean1 | May 13, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

@etdan1
"Of scientists who study the climate, 97% believe in anthropogenic climate change. The survey results for the remainder of the US geoscientist population is a mere 82%."

But none of those 97% scientists can provide empirical evidence for man-induced CO2 to be the climate change driver, it can't and it won't drive climate change. Study climate history, you don't need climategate scientists who practiced voodoo science with computer models aka Xboxes.

Posted by: Jack72 | May 13, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

@Jack72

What? I'm not sure you even need anything more than the near perfect correlation of CO2 emissions and global average temperature, but I guess ocean acidification and molecular studies of the greenhouse effect of atmospheric CO2 concentrations helps too.

I'm interested to hear the argument about how our release of massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere "can't and won't" drive climate change. If you throw around accusations of voodoo science, you should probably be able to back yourself up. People living in glass houses and all that.

Also, I've yet to hear why we should base our transport economy around a natural resource that enriches nations with interests adverse to the US.

Posted by: etdean1 | May 13, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

The truth is there is clear empirical evidence that shows the increasing harshness of natural events because of manmade pollutants. Period.

Besides arguing about whether global warming exists or not, this act is definitely a step in the right direction. Partisan sparring aside, there had to be compromises made on both sides to any sort of climate legislation go into effect. The truth is, we as an industrialized country are so behind the rest of the world in even coming grips with promoting sustainable energy resources and industries. I'm not going to argue about the validity of whether or not we need to explore energy alternatives, by the time every single American citizen is convinced that global warming is impacting the Earth, we will be doomed.

Support this bill. It is a weak call to action but a positive step in the right direction. People who complain and theorize about the minute short-term financial detriments are not thinking past next month. This bill will refund up to 2/3 of unspent funding back to the consumer, in addition to creating a framework for cap and rebate. We are at a point where we need to figure out solutions instead of arguing about the problem. Why not explore new avenues of producing clean energy? Why not support some sort of government action to enforce and create a better, cleaner world for the future?

Visit lesscarbonmorejobs.com for more information

Posted by: lhanedf | May 13, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

The empirical evidence suggests that climate change is overwhelmingly driven by human activities. Full stop.

A bunch of random people like to think their internet expertise trumps a lifetime of trying to study these questions. It does not.

Posted by: jeffwacker | May 13, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm not going to forget Lieberman's betrayal any time soon. The White House should hang him out to dry every time they get. Kerry is collateral damage.

Posted by: zosima | May 13, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Any legislation that has ever mattered for this country's people and future has been in a "tough spot" at one point or another. That's the way the American legislative process works, and when the stakes are high, it usually comes through for us. Keep in mind that the House climate bill passed last summer without nearly the hullaballoo we're seeing this time around. That says to me that our Congresspeople know this legislation is necessary and are capable of pulling together the gumption to pass it. And if we don't pass it this year, it's hard to imagine an equivalent piece of solid climate legislation coming through anytime soon after that. This is our best and last chance to give America the energy policy it deserves before it's too late. I think our Senators know that, and if we keep the pressure on and don't give up on them, we can get the American Power Act passed this year.

Posted by: sharpcheddar | May 13, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Klein! Sie wählen nicht auf König, ich auswählen nicht auf Ihnen aus. Diese leere Rechnung ist nicht von Ihrer Aufmerksamkeit angemessen. Sie ist für den kleinen Verstand, der nicht sehen kann. Dieses ist nicht Krieg, Politik durch andere Mittel! Dieses ist gerade Politik. Ein Tag am Theater. Lieberman und dieses französische schauende Kerry sollten leise sein und das CO2 auf diese Art verringern. Ihr.

Posted by: DemoKraut | May 13, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Hypocrits:
watch this Al Gore hypocrisy in action:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESxvY1tQHTo&feature=player_embedded

Posted by: NO-bama | May 13, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

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