Reid Reverses Course, Will Address Energy Before Immigration

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reversed course again and will bring up the energy and climate bill before immigration reform after all.

One of the energy/climate bill’s main authors, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), had threatened to pull his support from the bill if immigration came first, given that there’s really only time for one more major bill in before campaigns begin in August. Although many commenters here criticized Graham for the stunt, it appears to have worked. Reid’s stated reason has nothing to do with Graham’s protest, and while that reason makes sense, it's one that was true before Graham walked: “The energy bill is ready. We will move to that more quickly than a bill we don't have. I don't have an immigration bill." It was likely a combination of Graham threats and pressure from the environmental community that brought the energy bill back.

And indeed, this is a victory for environmental groups. The Sierra Club asked members to put pressure on their Senators to bring the bill up despite Reid’s move. Here at MyDD, the NRDC’s Heather Taylor-Miesle reacted to Graham’s withdrawal with a diary called “CLIMATE CHANGE CANNOT WAIT.” Other groups had similar messages.

My own reaction to the bill’s delay was more mixed. I have long thought that climate change’s scientific tipping point of no return is the most important part of the issue, meaning that getting a bill soon is probably more important than getting the bill right. Immigration, health insurance, etc. won't be harder to fix if we wait; climate change may be impossible to fix if we wait. I can tolerate fossil fuel giveaways, EPA restrictions, etc. if it's the only way to get fast action. Once KGL had sunk so far as to ban the states from getting more aggressive than the feds, however, I wasn’t so sure anymore. As I wrote after Graham and Reid initially scuttled the bill, perhaps the bill had finally sunk so much that it would be worth it to wait for January’s filibuster reform and a better bill, tipping point bedamned.

Now that we’re back on track for fast action, I stand by that statement. We must pass a bill as soon as possible, meaning this year if at all possible, but it must not weaken the states’ authority to pass their own stricter measures. California and New England have shown strong leadership on energy solutions, and blocking their innovation would make this bill a last step, not a first one. If that provision can’t be scuttled, this bill must be defeated and improved post-filibuster reform. If, however, we can convince the Senate to drop that provision, or if the House can defeat it in conference, than this truly is our best chance to price carbon for the first time in history and begin moving forward with a clean energy economy. Kill the anti-federalist measures and pass this bill.

Note: I am not writing on behalf of any of the environmental groups for which I’ve volunteered and/or worked. Many would probably disagree with my assessment of KGL and its timing. This post is solely my own.

Tags: Harry Reid, Lindsey Graham, KGL, Climate change, Global Warming, Energy, Environment, Clean Energy (all tags)

Comments

21 Comments

Sigh, the immigration gambit was stupid all along......

Reid and whoever else came up with the idea of fast-tracking immigration reform were stupid.

Immigration reform is important enough in its own right, and I, for one, never had a wish list of priorities for what Obama and Congressional Democrats should do in 2009-10.  They picked health care, took too long, but thank God they got it done as an accomplishment and not a failed initiative.

Then they picked the "climate" bill (which I wish were a TRUE global warming bill, but I'm a realist and always embrace as much as is possible as better than nothing).  That, too, is fine by me.

But what's NOT fine is to then make a TRANSPARENTLY PARTISAN political gambit to move up immigration.  It looks purely opportunistic to everyone, likely to Hispanics as well as the rest of us.  And that doesn't win the votes of Hispanics, who want a sincere legislative effort that will succeed, not a vote to "show" them what they ALREADY KNOW, that Democrats by and large are pro-immigration and otherwise embracing of people of color, while Republicans by and large are not.

Reid is going to have to man up in his campaign and just put together and STAY ON a message, an attack narrative against whoever wins the Republican nomination, and hope that OFA's field effort is enough to get turnout where he needs it.  He needs to stop with the verbal gaffes and stop looking for legislative or other gymnastics to overcome bad polls and get reelected.  He's going to have to try to win the normal way, and accept that he might fail.

I, unlike a lot of the netroots, LOVE Reid for what he's done as Majority Leader.  He got a lot of shit done that's good for America and good for the party, and someday a lot more liberals will come to appreciate that.  He's got the toughest legislative job inside the Beltway, far more difficult than anything Pelosi or Obama must do to get bills passed.

But no more desperate gambits, just get out there and show them what you've done for Nevada and America, and show them what a liliputian of a Senator they'll get as a Republican alternative.

by DCCyclone 2010-04-28 10:20PM | 1 recs
KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

I understand Nathan's concerns about the flaws in the KGL bill. In a perfect world, you'd have a clean climate bill, no fossil fuel or nuclear give-aways, no EPA or state preemptions.

But there are a few points to keep in mind.

First, upon closer inspection, these flaws are a lot less than they appear. On state and EPA preemption, for instance, a strong national cap of 17% below 2005 emissions by 2020 and 80% reductions by 2050 removes much of the need for EPA or states to go further.

Not only that, but, depending on how the bill is structured, stronger state limits may not even be feasible -- It may be that under a national cap, one state's stronger limits would simply allow another state to pollute more.

Second, as Nathan points out, the most important thing is to get the framework of a carbon-constrained energy future in place. This sends the signal to energy investors and it tells the world that at long last America is dealing with the climate threat, hopefully giving new life international climate negotiations, which have been severely gummed up in recent months/years.

Once you get the framework in place, you can prove the policy. As we start to bring down carbon emissions and deploy new energy alternatives without destroying the economy, we can show skeptics this is doable -- the sky won't fall, there won't be a Great Depression, we may even create jobs and put Americans back to work.

Finally, for those who are hoping for a better bill, the reality is this is the best deal we will get in at least the next two years. If as expected D's lose 5-10 seats in the Senate and 20-40 seats in the House, forget it -- climate won't come up in the 112th Congress. Then you're really rolling the dice and hoping Obama is reelected and there are major pro-climate gains in 2012.

Even under that scenario, it is very unlikely that we'll have a much better Senate than we do right now. So, the choice comes down to passing a flawed bill now or passing a flawed bill in 2 or 5 or 10 years. That's not much of a choice. It's time for climate action in the Senate.

by samtparry 2010-04-29 12:29AM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

I don't think the current KGL bill will go anywhere in the Senate. Graham is already fickle and will pull support at the drop of a hat. I don't see any other GOP votes and 1-2 Dems will likely not back it either. With the state-restrictions in place several dems from greener states will fail to back the bill as well. So it's DOA.

by vecky 2010-04-29 12:36AM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

I think you underestimate the power of the oil and coal give-aways. Those aren't in there for nothing. Give enough to oil and roger the EPA, Murkowski can come on board. Snowe and Collins haven't been themselves lately, but with some cover from Graham and Murkowski maybe they'll come back. There's always a chance to win a Voinovich or Lugar when bipartisan cover exists, and we're still figuring out Brown. But I think there's a much better chance for this to be bipartisan than health care. We may also lose more than 1-2 Dems, further muddying the waters. But the reason the bill sucks is because that's the path to 60 - if Kerry thought it was DOA, he would have at least helped his own reputation by making it a better bill.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-04-29 12:48AM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

Well, if Murkowski backs it we can safely say it's nothing other than a drill baby drill bill.

I don't think either Voinovich or Lugar, both from coal/auto states are going to support it ever. 

by vecky 2010-04-29 09:56PM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

It's not a cap, it's a target, and it's not national, it's sectoral. And if industries exceed the target, they pay a price, but they're still allowed to exceed.

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/03/17/17greenwire-senators-share-emission-bills-details-with-ind-76627.html

"According to several sources in the meeting room, the bill calls for greenhouse gas curbs across multiple economic sectors, with a 2020 target of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels and an 80 percent limit at midcentury. Power plant emissions would be regulated in 2012, with other major industrial sources being phased in starting in 2016... Additional layers of certainty for industry come via a "hard price collar" that limits greenhouse gas allowances to between $10 and $30 per ton tagged to inflation."

Now I'm certainly willing to support that in and of itself. We agree, it's a step. But I think it's inaccurate to portray it as a true 17% cut in 10 years. It's not. It's a goal, but not one with many assurances of or tools for success. That's okay as a first step, but only if you allow a second step, and banning state action means there's no second step.

And if this bill doesn't pass and climate doesn't come up in the 112th Congress, then, as desmoinesdem frequently points out, the EPA still has the authority to act. But given that I think we'll keep the House and pass filibuster reform with even just 50 seats and Biden in the Senate, I do think it will come up in the 112th and do so without the 60 vote threshhold.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-04-29 12:55AM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

I hate to split hairs on this, but it is my understanding that the KGL bill would deal with national targets and timelines in much the same way as the House bill. Granted, KGL would manage different sectors differently in terms of when they enter the emissions cap and how they'll obtain emissions permits.

But, the intent of KGL as I understand it is to set an overall national pollution limit under which different sectors have to apply for and receive different emission permits such that overall national pollution is reduced 17% below 2005 by 2020 and 80% below 2005 by 2050.

As for the 112th Congress, I see no path to 51 votes for a bill that is much stronger than KGL. If we miss this boat this year, that shuts down legislative options until at least 2012.

Now, that leaves us with state/regional efforts and the EPA regulations. EPA will proceed, but there will of course be legal challenges all along the way. And, there are a lot of MoCs who seem inclined to strip EPA of its authority through the Murkowski bill. Finally, EPA regs are only as good as the administration in power. I know it seems like a longshot now, but if a Palin or Gingrich or Paul or even Romney administration comes to power in 2013, there will be enormous pressure from the Tea Party fanatics to undo EPA regs either through admin action or through Murkowski-like legislative challenge, which under a GOP admin would not be vetoed.

Finally, as much as states can do individually, state action will not solve this problem. It does not allow the U.S. to go to international negotiations with any leverage. It does not sufficiently address our overall emissions limits. And, as is happening right now in California, state limits can be challenged electorally, legislatively, executively, and/or legally.

I think, and you may disagree, if we do not pass KGL this year, we will sentence our planet to a climate catastrophe. A lot of people, plants and animals will die, there will be numerous environmental refuge crises, there will be sea rise, stronger storms, a great Western dustbowl, etc, etc.

KGL will not prevent these calamities all by itself. But it gets us on the road to salvation and from there we can continue to work the problem.

by samtparry 2010-04-29 03:55PM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

"I think, and you may disagree, if we do not pass KGL this year, we will sentence our planet to a climate catastrophe. A lot of people, plants and animals will die, there will be numerous environmental refuge crises, there will be sea rise, stronger storms, a great Western dustbowl, etc, etc."

I don't disagree - but I don't agree, either. I do believe that yes, there is at tipping point. That might be this year, it might be in ten years. And I'm not quite as worried about the political calculus of 2011 as you are. But we will reach a point like what you're describing, and that's been what's worrying me for the last couple years. I just don't know if it's this year.

"KGL will not prevent these calamities all by itself. But it gets us on the road to salvation and from there we can continue to work the problem."

This is our disagreement. I don't think, with a block on states and, as you mention, a political calculus that may change, that we can continue to work the problem if the bill (in its current form) passes.

Random question - why is it "EPA" and not "the EPA"? I've seen it both ways, but I almost never seen other agency acronym without the "the".

by Nathan Empsall 2010-04-30 12:52AM | 0 recs
RE: KGL Is the Best Bill We Can Pass -- Let's Pass It!

Random question - why is it "EPA" and not "the EPA"? I've seen it both ways, but I almost never seen other agency acronym without the "the".

It's a good question. I've seen it both ways for the EPA and admit to using either interchangeably. I've seen the same for CIA vs. the CIA.

I don't think, with a block on states and, as you mention, a political calculus that may change, that we can continue to work the problem if the bill (in its current form) passes.

I agree this seems to be where we disagree the most. I think the AB32 law is great, as are the RGGI and the Western Climate Initiative efforts. But, these were experiments to get the ball rolling more than legitimate solutions to the climate crisis.

RGGI for instance would cap and cut utility sector emissions in participating states 10% by 2018. As a test/case study, this is a terrific effort. As a serious attempt to deal with climate change, this target is weak, it only deals with utilities and it is severely limited to 10 states.

Now AB32 is legitimate. But, even with its tough emissions targets, I don't think it goes beyond 2020. And, clearly, California alone cannot solve the climate crisis for America.

Finally, there are many other ways states can still innovate and cut emissions even with a KGL preemption. They can for instance promote renewables. They can still take on coal-fired power plants. They can promote energy efficiency, public transit, retrofit buildings, etc. etc.

So, again, if you want to solve the climate crisis, you need a national carbon standard that enables the U.S. to reengage in international negotiations and that sends a clear signal to the energy market. The states can and should still do their part. But, the preemption concern is a lot less than advertised and certainly shouldn't preempt passage of KGL.

by samtparry 2010-04-30 02:22AM | 0 recs
BP-Shell Is To Energy Bill

as California Anthem was to healthcare reform and Goldman Sachs was to financial reform.  Surely this disgusting spill is going to open the eyes of carbon fuel troglodytes to the need to go green?

by Bob H 2010-04-29 06:55AM | 0 recs
RE: BP-Shell Is To Energy Bill

What are you driving (riding, flying), Bob? What's keeping your house (office) warm? What are you plugging your computer into?

We are all troglodytes, me thinks.

by QTG 2010-04-29 09:05AM | 0 recs
RE: BP-Shell Is To Energy Bill

On a side note, computers have become quite significant energy hogs. On desktops the avg PSU has gone from 200 watts to 450 watts in the past 5 years. Bigger and brighter LCD screens along with computers kept on for longer hours (if not continuously) have made our little machines not quite as green.

(not for forget the waste heat, many offices have air-conditioning not so much to keep the employees comfortable but to deal with all the heat generated by 100+ computers and screens on 10-12 hours a day).

by vecky 2010-04-29 09:54PM | 0 recs
One would think

Exxon Valdez would've been that catalyst.

I doubt it, as a matter of fact I worry this mean more imported oil, i.e., more expensive gas.

by ND22 2010-04-30 06:54PM | 0 recs
Not really a climate change bill

climate change may be impossible to fix if we wait


Climate change is going to be impossible to fix whether we wait or not.  What's good about the effort is the energy diversification that will come out of it.  Just as long as there isn't too much ethanol hooey in there, I think it'll be an acceptable bill.  Then again, America is nothing if not a great money-making scheme for ADM and Monsanto.

by the mollusk 2010-04-29 10:31AM | 2 recs
RE: Not really a climate change bill

Yea, its a good name to put on diversification. Anything off of Oil is a step away from Cheney's world.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-04-29 11:34AM | 0 recs
RE: Not really a climate change bill

"Then again, America is nothing if not a great money-making scheme for ADM and Monsanto."

This is one of the best lines I've seen all month.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-04-29 12:18PM | 0 recs
RE: Not really a climate change bill

From Vanderbilt onward.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-04-29 02:10PM | 0 recs
by QTG 2010-04-29 02:37PM | 0 recs
by QTG 2010-04-29 02:37PM | 0 recs
RE: Actually

oops

by QTG 2010-04-29 02:39PM | 0 recs
RE: Reid Reverses Course, Will Address Energy Before Immigration

If they can get (and keep) Lindsey Graham on board for this bill, then it should be a good issue to put on the radar.  Lindsey Graham has been doing the Hamid Karzai dance and being indecisive (without threatening to join the taliban of course).  If Graham commits, and the dems collectively support it, then they could circumvent a filibuster and make the process a lot easier.  

Anything that improves upon what is already in place is a step forward to me.  I haven't researched the bill extensively, but it sounds like it will put our foot in the door on climate/energy problems.  This is a long-awaited and well overdue issue to be addressed.

by Chuckie Corra 2010-04-30 05:06AM | 0 recs

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