I basically agree with the New York Times’ editorial board when they say that Obama should push hard for a cap and trade energy bill. But, I wish they would be a little more clear about the problem with pushing for that than they are here:
The politics won’t be easy. Some big oil and power companies will push back hard, as will nearly all Republicans and many Rust Belt Democrats.
The politics won’t just be difficult, they will be impossible. Contrary to Rachel Maddow’s fantasy, the Senate explicitly rejected using the budget reconciliation process to pass an energy bill. That’s not an option, so any bill must reach the magic 60-vote threshold to cut off debate and get an up-or-down vote. The Democrats are not united and, even if they were, they only have 59 members in their caucus. There is no way to get to 60 votes for a Cap and Trade bill.
So, why do I agree with the New York Times? Because this is a battle worth losing. There is time to come back and pass something whittled down and inadequate, but that should not be the starting position. Before compromising, the president should make it crystal clear that the 60-vote threshold is creating gridlock and preventing him from delivering on his promises. The final compromise will be stronger this way, and the public will learn something important about procedural obstruction. This will make voting for Republican senators in November less attractive and help build momentum for filibuster reform in the next Congress.
But, we should be clear. We’re asking the president to intentionally stake out ground that he knows he will have to concede. That’s not often a wise move on the president’s part, but this, I believe, is an exception.