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Is Reid's energy bill worse than no bill at all?

reidenergybill.JPG

Harry Reid has called for an "energy bill" by July. But it's not the energy bill we've been waiting for. It not only lacks a price on carbon, but as Brad Plumer explains, it makes it harder to ever get one:

Earlier today, Chuck Schumer was on MSNBC and said that the legislation Reid was assembling would resemble the (weak) energy-only bill passed by Jeff Bingaman's committee back in June. In other words, there'd be some renewable-power mandates, some incentives for nuclear, some funds to kick-start new transmission lines, and some new regulations on oil companies. If Kerry and Lieberman want to tack on a cap-and-trade scheme on top of all that, Schumer said, they'll "get a chance to add it in the form of an amendment."

If Schumer's right, this would certainly lower the odds that Congress will pass a carbon-pricing scheme this year. The logic behind combining everything into one big bill, as Kerry and Lieberman did, was so that the items that were popular with senators (like oil regulations or financial support for nuclear utilities) were mashed together with the unpopular items (cap-and-trade), and there'd be one big up-or-down vote on the whole enchilada. If energy and climate get separated out, then it's less likely the latter can survive.

In other words, if you give away the popular stuff that would've helped a climate-change bill get through now, you're not likely to be able to get a climate-change bill through later.

Update: Schumer's office e-mails with some walkback:

“To the senator's knowledge, no decisions have been made yet on the floor strategy for legislation addressing the nation's urgent energy challenges, nor is it his decision to make. Senator Schumer speculated on one procedural option, but make no mistake: he believes climate change legislation is vital to our nation’s energy security and looks forward to voting for it. He is working with his colleagues to get the strongest, most comprehensive bill possible and looks forward to discussions with the rest of the leadership later this week on how to best move forward.”

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 7, 2010; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Comments

How much do you want to bet that an amendment preventing the EPA from enforcing its mandate to regulate carbon emissions gets attached to the bill?

Posted by: chassmith1066 | June 7, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

just as an FYI if you're in favor of this you may want to avoid calling a carbon tax a "scheme" because some may take that the wrong way--just sayin.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, I'm sure we all know that "scheme" can have any number of non-nefarious uses, but I see what you mean.

I wonder if President Obama would veto such a weak bill. My guess is no because there's such an interest in showing how productive the Dems have been in the last two years. Maybe if this were coming up in the second term. Anyway, my guess is that something like this may not have the votes. They'll definitely lose a few of the more liberal Dems. Maybe the Republicans will cut their members loose to vote as they like so that they can ensure that this passes without any ammendments they don't like.

Posted by: MosBen | June 7, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

@MosBen: "I wonder if President Obama would veto such a weak bill. My guess is no because there's such an interest in showing how productive the Dems have been in the last two years."

You are dead on. And I don't mean this to be partisan, I just think Obama would sign on to something that he thought was a bad bill, just to keep the momentum in the "correct" direction. I just don't think he's going to be the president that vetos a climate bill.

"Maybe the Republicans will cut their members loose to vote as they like so that they can ensure that this passes without any ammendments they don't like."

Maybe. But I think they can safely be "the party of no" with this one, and that's probably what they'll be.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 7, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

MosBen,

ya but those that want to rail against it would see the "scheme" in the more nefarious ways.

Its an interesting question. I'd think he'd veto it. Its not like healthcare (IMO) that you'd be building towards something. If you don't get key parts that won't make sense to add later on I'd think you'd almost have to veto it. Or at least push very hard to get amendments you want to pass in there.

But then again its not like you can't just throw it in later with a war appropriations bill and politicize it!

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

"this would certainly lower the odds that Congress will pass a carbon-pricing scheme this year"

Lower than zero? Not possible.

Posted by: ostap666 | June 7, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Boy, at this point I'm starting to hope that those climate change denialists are right. What other hope is there?

Posted by: jeirvine | June 7, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

i think chassmith1066 points out the real threat. if the bill blocks EPA from regulating carbon than no bill would be better than an energy stand-alone bill.

since there is very very little chance of passing cap and trade system or carbon tax, waiting to pass the national renewable electricity standard would be short sighted.

Posted by: klot | June 8, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

The whole premise of this argument is ridiculous. The Senate doesn't pass bills in "one big enchilada," it processes tens or even hundreds of amendments each time. If there are provisions that lack sufficient support on their own to pass, they will be stripped or amended out or the bill will never get to come to the floor. Seriously, cite one example of a provision that passed the Senate because it was paired with something else popular. It just doesn't happen.

Either the votes are there or they're not. You can't change that dynamic with other allegedly popular provisions.

Posted by: dcmike2 | June 8, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"If energy and climate get separated out, then it's less likely the latter can survive."

Shorter Ezra: This is a really good technique to jam unpopular items down the collective throat of the American People.

After the vote-buying and extortion practiced in the HealthCare bill, this seems tame.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | June 8, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

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