Friday, March 19, 2010

Senators tiptoe on climate deals

Senators tiptoe on climate deals; POLITICO

Senators working on a major climate bill have a near impossible task: how to cut deals without looking like they’re cutting deals.

Such is the toxic legislating environment in wake of the so-called Cornhusker Kickback on health care — even mild legislative compromises designed to attract votes are now under much greater scrutiny, as lawmakers fear political repercussions from anything perceived as a side deal.

So very carefully, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have been conducting climate bill negotiations across the Senate, hoping to make a few palatable deals that will get them to 60 votes.

And Republicans are set to pounce on anything that looks like a special set-aside for a state or an industry. That means Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s request for help with melting glaciers or West Virginia Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller’s wish for carbon capture subsidies for coal plants could be fodder for political opponents.

“That’s one of the things that sank the health care bill,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “It wasn’t just the policy; it was the unseemliness of the various deals.”

Democrats have grown increasingly sensitive about what kind of “deals” it might take to get a climate change bill passed this year.

“That’s such an offensive question; it’s just offensive,” said Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, after being asked what she would “need” to see to support a climate bill during a hallway encounter in the Capitol. “It’s not what I need; it’s what I believe what the people that I represent believe.”

Landrieu came under intense fire when she agreed to back the health care bill after securing $100 million in extra federal money for her home state.

Lawmakers stress that the climate negotiations don’t involve the type of narrowly tailored, transactional provisions that got Democrats into so much trouble during the health care debate.

But the potential for danger is there, given that regional deals appear to be the only way to pass a climate bill. The House cap-and-trade bill, for example, passed only after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) cut deals with groups of coal-, oil- and manufacturing-state Democrats.

And in the Senate, negotiators have dropped an economywide cap-and-trade system in favor of a more specific sector-by-sector approach to the bill designed to satisfy industry and members from different regions of the country.

“All states aren’t created equal when it comes to energy sources, so it’s going to have to be a varied bill just by the nature of the problem,” said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a coal-state Democrat who says the climate bill is “apples to oranges” compared with the health care bill.

While none of these negotiations amount to a direct kickback, several key swing voters in the Senate are pushing items that would disproportionately benefit their home states.

Begich said he’s “aggressively” pushing for tens of billions of dollars to help his state cope with melting sea ice, eroding coastal villages, shrinking permafrost and other devastating effects of climate change.

“There’s no state that is affected like us, and for that not to be addressed will be a significant problem for me,” he said. ...

Read the rest here.

Comment: After reading the whole article, I wonder if you came away with the same conclusion I did...the US Senate is a pack of morons. I can't say it any nicer or clearer.

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