The Dernogalizer

July 11, 2009

Navigating a Minefield Part 2

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:47 pm
Tags: , ,

In my first post on the coming climate legislation battle in the Senate, I focused on a myriad of suggestions on how both the politicians pushing legislation as well as environmental activists and organizations could work to get a stronger bill.  Despite the monumental challenge of getting to 60 votes in the Senate, as I said in the first post which I won’t repeat in depth here, there are advantages in terms of how to increase the pressure on Senators that we didn’t have in the House.  However that isn’t the focus of this post.  This post basically shows that absent a much stronger and smarter mobilization in the Senate, there will need to be wheeling and dealing done by President Obama, Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid, along with top Democrats.

As a disclaimer I will say that the  “pick your poison” scenario I lay out at the end is not one that I would like to see.  It is simply a look at what it’s going to take to get 60.  Another disclaimer is this is a long post, so bring a snack.

The first thing to note is some good news.  Although multiple committees are going to be working on this bill, a major architect of the provisions will be Boxer’s Environment and Public Works(EPW) committee which she chairs.  While the Energy and Commerce Committee which produced much of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House was loaded with corrupt Democratic lawmakers from fossil fuel intensive states, EPW’s Democrats are more progressive and in more coastal states.  As a result, you’re going to see a stronger bill come out of EPW.  I was in a lobby meeting with my US Senator Ben Cardin’s Projects Director, and Cardin himself stopped by.  The sentiment from them was that we should expect a stronger bill coming out of their committee, and the real fight will come on the Senate floor to hold onto as much of it as possible.  I know that office expressed desire in stronger short term targets, clearer language about consumer protection, and reestablishing the EPA authority to try and regulate CO2.

If you look at the members of the committee, I don’t see any of the 7 Republicans that would go along with a stronger bill, let alone any bill, so that leaves the 12 Democrats.  Boxer can afford 2 defections.  Of these Democrats, I wouldn’t expect the following to defect from a vote on a better  bill “Barbara Boxer(CA), Thomas Carper(DE), Frank Laughenberg(NJ), Ben Cardin(MD), Bernard Sanders(VT), Amy Klobuchar(MN), Sheldin Whitehouse(RI), Tom Udall(NM), Jeff Merkley(OR), and Kristin Gillibrand(NY)”.  You would probably have trouble with Max Baucus and Arlen Specter in getting them to support a strong bill, but those would be the two defections.  I know I’ve heard concerns before about Gillibrand being a conservative Democrat, but that was when she represented a conservative Congressional district in New York.  Now that she’s a Senator of a liberal state, I don’t expect any problems from her.

Basic takeaway point:  Expect a better bill coming out of EPW.  We need to push hard for the best bill possible as well, because if we can manage to get a great bill coming out of this committee, it serves as a much better starting point for negotiations on the floor than if we just copied Waxman-Markey.

Now is where the fun begins.  The bill can only be as strong as the 60th Senator wants it to be.  Time to make a list on who falls where.  The 4 categories are “yes, on the fence, probably no, no”.  I could have a “probably yes” section, but quite frankly if you can’t get the “probably yes” Senators, you’re not going to get the fencesitters, so I’m assuming those who would probably vote yes…vote that way.  Let’s get the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ lists out of the way.

Yes(44):    Akaka (D-HI), Bennett (D-CO), Bingaman (D-NM),  Boxer (D-CA),Burris (D-IL), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE),  Casey (D-PA), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hagan (D-NC), Harkin (D-IA), Inouye (D-HI), Kaufman (D-DE),  Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Klobachar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Lautenberg (D-NJ),  Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI),  Lieberman (I-CT),  Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD),  Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL),  Reed (D-RI),  Reid (D-NV),  Sanders (I-VT),  Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Stabenow (D-MI), Udall (D-NM), Udall(D-CO), Warner (D-VA), Webb (D-VA),  Whithouse (D-RI),  Wyden (D-OR).

A few things to note from this. Stabenow and Levin are considered swing votes, but they are liberal democrats. Not only can they be whipped by leadership into voting yes, but they need all the support they can get from the Obama Administration for the automaker jobs in the state. They voted for cloture for last year’s climate bill as well. Michigan also went solidly Obama in 2008. These elbows won’t take much twisting. There’s a possibility Bill Nelson of Florida would be a no vote if there were provisions in the final bill to drill off of Florida’s coast. There’s a fear that Jim Webb and Mark Warner would cause trouble. In my opinion they’ll vote yes for the following reasons. Virginia went solidly Blue in 2008, Virginia is comparatively a low carbon state, and Webb voted for cloture on the 2008 climate bill. For why Kay Hagan of NC is there, check out an endorsement she received last fall from Environment North Carolina spelling out her record. Also, NC went Obama, she isn’t in a re-election year for 2010, and comparatively NC is a low-carbon state. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico has been considered a potential troublemaker, but his rhetoric on global warming legislation, on introducing his own legislation in the past, on trying(although doing a bad job) of getting an energy bill out of his committee that invests in renewable energy, Bingaman also holds a blue state, takes large amounts of money from low-carbon energy industries, and his environmental record has become quite progressive over the past few sessions of Congress. He also voted for cloture on Lieberman-Warner in 2008.

No(34) : Alexander (R-TN), Barrasso (R-WY), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Graham (R-SC), Enzi (R-WY), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchinson (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Kyl (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Voinovich (R-OH), Wicker (R-MS).

The explanation I’ll offer here is for including Judd Gregg of NH, a blue state, into the definite no category. Before Obama nominated Gregg for a cabinet position(which he refused), Gregg was a moderate voice in the Republican party, and he had supported earlier proposals by McCain on global warming. For whatever reason, Gregg has shifted significantly in the other direction since then, and if you look at his rhetoric here, and a criticism of him here, I consider Gregg hopeless. Another piece of explaining is Bob Corker, who in the past has spoken openly about cap and trade, but in the same article I referred to on Gregg, Corker was saying unless 100% of the revenue is returned to the American people(which won’t be happening) so government doesn’t grow a bit, the bill is a non-starter.
On the Fence (13) : Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Brown (D-OH), Lincoln (D-AR), Johnson (D-SD), Martinez (R-FL), McCain (R- AZ), Pryor (D-AR), Rockefeller (D-WV), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME), Specter (D-PA), Tester (D-MT)
Probably No(9) : Byrd (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN) , Condrad(D-ND, Dorgan (D-ND), Landrieu (D-LA), Murkowski (R-AK), Lugar (R-IN), McCaskill (D-MO), Nelson (D-NE)
Just to do a bit of explaining of why certain people are where they are. Lets start with the probably no’s for Democrats. I didn’t put any Democrats in the solid “no” category since pressure from the party along with negotiations makes even a longshot a possibility.
Byrd of West Virginia is king-coal, and he has blasted the Waxman-Markey bill for being too tough on coal. Longest shot there is.
Evan Bayh has stated his problems with cap and trade. He also recently voted “no” on an energy bill coming out of Jeff Bingaman’s committee which had a measly 15% Renewable Electricity Standard(with efficiency built in), because it was too strong. He also comes from a red carbon intensive state.
Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan come from heavily red states(North Dakota) which have some of the highest carbon footprints per capita in the country. Conrad is already having fun blowing up Obama’s public healthcare option, they both opposed cap and trade through the budget reconciliation process, Dorgan voted against cloture for Lieberman-Warner. However North Dakota has massive wind potential.
Mary Landrieu is pretty terrible when it comes to clean energy issues. She voted with Bayh against the energy bill with the 15% RES, even though it opened up some more offshore drilling, which she loves. Landrieu also voted against cloture on Lieberman-Warner last year.
Claire McCaskill ticks me off, just because right after the Waxman-Markey bill passed, she Twitters “I hope we can fix cap and trade so it doesn’t unfairly punish businesses and families in coal dependent states like Missouri”. As if Waxman-Markey didn’t do enough for coal dependent states. Missouri gets 85% of it’s energy from coal and has the largest coal company there, Peabody, which has spent 10 million dollars on lobbying against climate legislation since 2008! She also said she thinks(hopes) the bill sinks in the Senate. Even though she was a big Obama supporter, I can’t put her on the fence when faced with this rhetoric.
Ben Nelson is from Nebraska. The state is wayyy red. Also, a right wing group Americans for prosperity is bragging about how Nelson’s staff e-mailed them to say that he is adamantly opposed to cap and trade. However, Nelson has explained his vote for cloture on Lieberman-Warner that “I voted for cloture on the bill to allow it to move forward because I do not support procedural gimmicks that prevent a bill from getting an up or down vote.” A glimmer of hope.
As for the Republican “probably no’s” who you might think would be a flat-out no. I have Lisa Murkowski there since she’s introduced a cap and trade bill before(although it sucked), she had indicated some support for the one last year, but abstained from voting. Also, there have been numerous articles such as this one that she wants to green her image and take a leadership role on clean energy and global warming. Alaska is one of the most vulnerable states to warming temperatures, and she believes greenhouse gases are causing global warming. Lastly, she recently voted for the crappy energy bill that came out of Bingaman’s committee(that most Republicans regarded as too strong).
You might be real surprised to see Dick Lugar there! So why do I have him there? A few reasons. One is he’s widely regarded as a pragmatic politician that is willing to cross party lines. Obama used Lugar as an example of his bipartisanship during the election. They appear to be on good terms. In the past, Lugar has called for the US to return to the International Negotiating Table during the Bush Administration, he’s supported a tax on gasoline to reduce our oil addiction, and praised a campus for taking steps under the “President’s Climate Committment”. He believes greenhouse gas are causing global warming. Downside is he’s a Republican from Indiana, and he voted no on Lieberman-Warner last year. Maybe he’ll see the light this time? Check out these recent videos, and the one below.
Onto the fence-sitting Democrats.
Max Baucus and Jon Tester are from Montana, a red state which is pretty coal intensive. They often fall in the middle when it comes to votes on major pieces of legislation. You’ll see both sides of Tester’s perspective when he says in this interview “50% of that (points to light) comes right from coal. Of our electricity, of our energy. So it ain’t going away. So let’s figure out a way to burn it better.” But he’s also stated “The climate instability factor right now is a big issue. I mean, it’s a big issue. We had a great December, and it’s been dry ever since then at the farm.” However, Tester also voted for Lieberman-Warner last year, and Baucus made this statement in 2007 on the need for global warming legislation.
Mark Begich of Alaska is an interesting study. He has stated in his energy platform that he will support cap-and-trade, and has also said he’ll push Lisa Murkowski hard as well on a climate bill. The question is, what kind of climate bill? Begich is from Alaska. He barely won an election against Ted Stevens, a corrupt Congressmen that was indicted during the election. They elected Sarah Palin! Enough said. Also, if you’re from Alaska, you have to be for drilling in ANWAR, which Begich is.
Sherrod Brown is from Ohio, the state that decides the presidential election a lot of the time. He voted no on the Lieberman-Warner bill last year. So then, why did Brown write this column in April about how we need to cap carbon to create a new clean energy economy? Ohio also isn’t that carbon intensive, and Brown doesn’t take much money from dirty industry. Ohio just might decide climate legislation too. **Update** Brown will not filibuster with Republicans on the bill.
Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of red-state Arkansas are going to be tough. Both voted for cloture on Lieberman-Warner in 2008. Pryor has in the past indicated his support for renewable energy measures and for combating climate change. At the same time he opposed using the budget reconciliation process for climate legislation. Lincoln is up for re-election in 2010, and both Democrats expressed their reservations on cap-and-trade, although Lincoln appeared to be more open than Pryor.
Tim Johnson from South Dakota is another vote that could really go either way. On one hand, you would think it would be a no since he voted against cloture for Lieberman-Warner last year, and comes from a red state. However, indications are Johnson is completely undecided. He did recently vote yes for that crappy Bingaman energy bill(which in a weird way is a good sign), and South Dakota has some of the best wind potential in the country. For whatever reason it also is a low carbon-intensive state, and here are a couple bits from the article on Johnson’s stance ” he said during a public broadcasting interview that he wanted to support the measure but hadn’t yet read it and wasn’t ready to commit.” and “Johnson communications director Julianne Fisher points to a Congressional Budget Office analysis that indicates the cost of the House-approved energy bill would be about $175 per household in 2020.  She said a Senate energy committee had already moved legislation to provide new incentives and standards for renewable energy. That is likely to be a basis for a union of Senate and House energy legislation, she said.” So he gets the cost is low. As an aside, Obama just nominated Johnson’s son to be a US attorney. Just sayin.
West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller is like fellow Senator Rob Byrd, except instead of king coal, think of him as prince coal. However, Rockefeller voted for cloture on Lieberman-Warner last year, and if you look at his statement, he thinks climate change is a major problem and wants to take action. He just also happens to love clean coal. His quote “It’s absolutely the right and moral thing to do – and it will more than pay for itself in the long run.”” Tough to tell if he meant climate action, or clean coal as the means. He will be heavily pressured by West Virginians to vote no, and heavily pressured by Democratic leadership to vote yes.
Arlen Specter is tricky as well. On one hand Pennsylvania is a blue state, not too carbon intensive, and Specter was already sponsoring cap and trade legislation(although weak) as a Republican. He’s talked often about his concern regarding global warming. You would hope that as a Democrat it would be much easier to vote with the party than against it. However he abstained from voting for cloture on Lieberman-Warner, and is facing a difficult re-election campaign in 2010 given all his party-switch maneuvering. Still, I would like to think he is one of the easier “yes” votes up here.
I’m sure a raised an eyebrow or two with these Republican fence-sitters.
Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are the two Republicans I would expect to vote yes, but you have to put them on the fence since they’re Republicans. Both voted for cloture on Lieberman-Warner last year, so they aren’t fundamentally opposed to cap and trade. Collins said here that she is a supporter of cap and trade. Both Republicans have great environmental records, Snowe herself has introduced such legislation in the past. They also hail from blue states. I don’t think their votes are assured, but like Specter I would say they’re going to be easier than some Democrats.
John McCain has been known in the environmental community in the past as the guy who kept introducing those cap and trade bills with Lieberman in the early 2000’s. McCain is concerned about global warming. He likes alternative energy. Arizona has massive solar potential. There is some caution since Obama kind of pissed off McCain so much he went all pro-drilling on him and McCain worried people when he blasted Obama on his cap-and-trade scheme a few months ago. However if you look at what McCain was criticizing Obama for, it was 2 things. One was that Obama wanted a 100% auction of permits, while McCain favors most of them being given away for free. Since it’s doubtful we’re getting anywheres close to a 100% auction after the House version, that problem is gone. McCain also loves nuclear power. If the bill doesn’t have nuclear it’s debatable whether he’ll support it.
Mel Martinez! I’m sure this is the biggest eyebrow raiser. Bad side is Martinez has a poor environmental record. But I actually think Martinez is underestimated and is a better chance than many Democrats. Forget whether Florida is blue or red. Why? Martinez is retiring after 2010. He isn’t worried about the politics of his vote. Last year, Martinez voted for cloture on Lieberman-Warner. Florida is one of the most vulnerable states to sea level rise. At the dismay of global warming deniers, here is Martinez response to an e-mail about global warming. It says all the right things! Here is a good snippet “as one of the world’s largest energy consumers, it is time for the United States to accept this responsibility. The choices we make now in dealing with climate change may be some of the most significant environmental and economic decisions of our generation. I assure you that I am committed to passing legislation to counter the threat posed by global climate change”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Martinez is the surprise “yes” vote on a bill at the end of the day.
So that should provide some good background on who stands where, and what the prospects are of getting them on board. I think that grassroots pressure could go a long way to ensuring that there is an effective bill. However, for the sake of predicting where Senate leadership would compromise, lets look at the math. 44 definite yes votes. Leadership and Obama needs to pick up an extra 16 out of 22 possibilities to seal the deal. By my judgement, there are a few pathways to this, and it really is a “pick your poison”. There’s “major investment in clean coal tech, major investment in nuclear power, drilling in ANWAR/offshore, giveaways to agriculture industry, and lower emissions targets”. Just as a measure of what could get you all 13 swing votes, I believe some combination of the first 4 poisons I mentioned would pick them up. That would mean of the 9 probably no’s, you would need 3. I think a few of those 9 such as Bayh, Condrad, Murkowski and McCaskill would be more open after the concessions to the swing votes. From that point forth, it would take a combination of strong whipping by party leadership, more horsetrading, and behind the scenes promises by Obama. Given that Pelosi and Obama were able to pull it off and pick up 20 House votes in a frantic couple days, who’s to say they can’t squeeze a few in the Senate?
I wouldn’t bet against it.
**Update 7/13/09** I have Sherrod Brown listed as “swing”. Looks like he will not go with Republicans on a filibuster.
**Update 8/12/09** Tim Johnson is off the fence


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