Is Harry Reid 'cynical' on energy? Is the GOP? Both?
Can Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pass a big energy and climate bill before the end of the year, let alone before the Senate’s August recess? Increasingly, senators and Hill staffers say no, and they’re wondering why he would try.
Ever since President Obama decided to prioritize health care over climate, timing was a problem for energy policy. Health reform dragged on longer than planned. So did financial reform. Now, in the waning days of the 111th Congress, the majority leader might have about a week before August in which to consider the energy legislation he’s assembling. Given the legislative calendar, Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that any attempt to pass such a bill in this Congress would be “cynical” and not “intellectually honest.” The deal-making that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) conducted with industry to finely tune their all-but-defunct energy plan took months to complete. It will be hard to calibrate a different scheme quickly.
A senior GOP staffer and others I’ve spoken to speculate that the Democrats might be less interested in actually passing the bill than in merely goading Republicans into voting against it. That wouldn’t make much sense -- Republicans seem very happy to rail against the Democrats’ plan for a “national energy tax” -- except that the bill will also include reforms related to the gulf oil spill. Voting against those might look bad.
Some progressives, of course, argue that Republicans are the ones operating in bad faith.
Citing Hill sources, they speculate that Republicans are preparing to drag out the process of considering the energy bill, debating cap-and-trade regulation at length, eventually filibustering it and forcing consideration of other elements of the legislation into late in the year.
Either -- or both -- are possible. Here’s the reality that’s lost in all of this speculation: Unseemly motives or no, senators in both parties are working against good policy, and they should know better. Supposedly free-market conservative Democrats and Republicans hypocritically oppose market-based carbon cap policies, among the most desirable for greening the economy. If they ended their obstruction, a huge point of contention would be settled. And if liberal Democrats could then accept sensible provisions broadening their Renewable Electricity Standard to include any low-carbon technology and expanding domestic oil exploration, enough GOP senators might stay on board to pass something actually worth enacting. Instead, both sides seem more interested in preemptively blaming the other for the bill’s failure.
| July 21, 2010; 6:46 AM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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