A broad carbon-pricing system would essentially require power plants, manufacturers and transportation industries to limit the pollution that scientists say is causing climate change and would tax entities that exceed their caps.
Republicans dismiss such a cap-and-trade system as a new tax on households and business — “cap-and-tax,” they call it. With the Democrats’ 59-member caucus intensely divided on energy issues, crossover support from Republicans would be needed.
Still, a majority of Democrats appear willing to risk legislative failure, believing a robust summer discussion on energy would establish a stark contrast between the parties before the fall election.
Tackling energy legislation gives Democrats a strategy they believe resonates with voters — though one that would expose them to GOP taunts over higher taxes, a fight Republicans would relish.
“If we spend our time always worrying about that 60th vote, we never get to do anything in a strong position,” said Sen. Mark Begich (D- Alaska).
Yeah, you read that right. I predicted to you that Mark Begich would be one of our better freshmen, despite representing a very conservative pollution-dependent state. It’s not exactly likely that the Democrats will overcome a Republican filibuster and pass any kind of climate-addressing legislation, but sometimes you have to be willing to fail. In other years, we might have a better chance, but, as far as I can tell, the only two Republican senators who are both vulnerable and facing the voters in November are Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Richard Burr of North Carolina. We don’t have any leverage because the Republican caucus has nothing to fear. Will voters punish Senators in 2012 and 2014 for votes they cast this summer? It’s not too likely. And Richard Burr seems impervious to any pressure to appear moderate. Chuck Grassley, however, is feeling a bit of heat, which is why he voted for the Wall Street Reform bill and probably will vote for it again on final passage. If there is hope to pass climate legislation, pressure must be kept on Grassley because the other moderates (Snowe, Collins, and Brown) and not on the ballot this fall.
While I don’t think the effort to pass climate legislation will be successful, it is a good issue to present to the public so that they can make a clear choice on which party they want in control of Congress. One party wants to apologize to BP for making them, and not the taxpayers, foot the bill for cleaning up the Gulf. One party wants to Drill, Baby, Drill without regard for the fishing and tourist industries, or the health of our oceans. One party thinks climate change is a hoax (or, at least, is willing to pretend to think that). And the other party is trying to address these issues in a responsible way, informed by science, but is running up against obstruction.
So, yeah, let’s have this fight. Just keep in mind that half the battle is won just by the Democrats deciding to wage the battle in the first place. If they fail to pass something, they will not deserve the blame for that. You can’t ask them to fight a losing battle for you and them blame them for not succeeding. And, maybe, they will somehow prevail after all, against all odds.