Potential to Push Green Policies forward in the New Congress?

The Tea Party is making its presence known in Washington this week. Even before freshmen lawmakers were sworn in, party leader Senator Jim DeMint was trying to push the GOP to the right by criticizing what the conservatives call Rinos: Republicans in name only (so much for the big tent party).

I expect the 112th Congress to include many more of these demands to show far-right credentials. But believe it or not, I also think it will present opportunities to move key environmental priorities forward.

Sure, this Congress includes a larger percentage of people with completely crazies ideas than the previous one and there is no doubt that it is going to be harder to improve the health of our people, air, water, and land.  But that doesn’t mean environmental progress has to come to screeching halt.

Indeed, we have never relied on one party alone to achieve green goals. From the launch of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Nixon to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 signed by the first President Bush, the environmental movement has succeeded only when we garnered bipartisan support.

And even now, in the midst of Tea Party fervor, we have the potential to do it again. Why? Because I see signs that the GOP hasn’t lost all its ability to moderate and reach across the aisle.

One of the most surprising signs comes from a Tea Party darling himself. Patrick Toomey won a Senate seat from Pennsylvania thanks in part to a Sarah Palin endorsement and a lot of antiestablishment rhetoric. And yet this week Toomey said that he may not vote for everything Tea Party standard bearer Jim DeMint asks for—including opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which he said he would have supported.

Toomey also went so far as to co-author an op-ed in USA Today with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Together they wrote: “Cross-party alliances often make for the most effective partnerships.”

But here is what I find most revealing about the GOP’s relationship to the far right: new Majority Leader John Boehner did not give any influential posts on House committees to Tea Party lawmakers. The positions he did offer were minor at best.

Why would he undercut a political force he himself benefitted from in the November elections? Because he knows that races are won or lost according to the independent voter. In the past few elections, those voters have been swinging back and forth between parties.

Boehner and his colleagues know that just because they got the independents in 2010 doesn’t mean they will keep them the next time.

The Cook Political Report has already issued its assessment of which lawmakers are vulnerable in 2012. That means the lawmakers being sworn in this week are already running for election, and if there are running in a pendulum district, they can’t indulge all their ideological insanity and expect to keep their seats.

Of course, it is completely possible that the GOP will plunge into Civil War and the Tea Party faction will head into the 2012 elections with greater influence. But I think it is more probable that GOP lawmakers will try to distance themselves from the craziness.

That leaves those of us who care about the environment and public health with an important job to do: we have to present lawmakers with opportunities to demonstrate their sanity.

We are not going to pass a cap and trade bill through this Congress, but there are openings on the legislative agenda to build bipartisan backing for common sense solutions.

Reforming the rules governing toxics to keep our children safe from cancer and other diseases, using the transportation bill to promote American jobs, and passing an energy bill that helps America do more using less energy—all of these policies are good for American families and all of them have garnered some GOP support in the past.

Now we need to work with all the leaders who want to build a cleaner future for America—and prove they are sane lawmakers.

This blog was originally posted on the NRDC Action Fund blog, The Markup.



Lawmakers Consider Alternative Plan to Break Budget Impasse

OUCH - A staffer for Speaker of the House John Boehner shows reporters how the sheep will be sacrificed as he leaves budget negotiations at the White House.

Washington – Details of a secret Congressional plan to break the long-standing deadlock in budget negotiations leaked out Thursday. US lawmakers are considering the use of an unorthodox method favored by the Kyrgyzstani Parliament – sacrificial sheep.

Although Kyrgyzstanis use it for banishing the twin devils of ethnic strife and revolution, Kyrgyzstani oil lobbyist Zhogorku Kenesh said the ritual could be redesigned for US budget purposes for as little as KGS 7 billion Kyrgyzstani som and an arranged lesbian marriage of President Obama’s eldest daughter Malia Ann Obama to Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva.

The initial proposal, offered by Republicans, called for 6 sheep to be slaughtered and placed on a huge altar recently dedicated at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. However, the proposal immediately met resistance from members of the Republican’s own Christian conservative wing.

“We’re not so bothered by the pagan ritual – after all, it’s for debt reduction and tax incentives for conservative Christian churches – but slaughtering 6 sheep is totally unacceptable,” said Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association.

666, The Mark of The Beast
“The number 6 is an important, symbolic number for Christians. It constitutes one-third of the dangerous mark of the beast, 666. By allowing this number of the Muslim devils in this most unholiest of ways, we are inviting doom and total annihilation by one-third of the Islamic radical empire,” Fischer said.

In order to save the fledgling compromise, Sen. Harry Reed (D-Asslandia) stepped forward with a proposal to raise the number of sheep to be slaugtered to 7. However, Tea Party activists in the Republican caucus killed the idea.

The Partiers insist on cutting the sheep budget by 99% and the abolishment of President Obama’s signature health care bill. According to the Republican Institute of Financial Analysis, the sheep cut alone would erase the Federal deficit within 90 days. Republican officials described the Institute’s findings as, “very insightful”.

“We have to watch out for this sort of insidious attack on our freedoms,” said Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Moronohoma). “First we’ll be required to sacrifice sheep every evening before dinner and once lulled by the aroma of the devilish flesh, carted off to concentration camps operated by the socialist Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

Liberals were equally disappointed with the plan. Broadcaster Rachel Maddow, speaking on condition of anonymity on her news show, floated the idea that all sheep be supplied by local, humane farms that do not use hormones on their animals.

Maddow Touts Sacrificial Celery
“I’m vegetarian, so I’d prefer they sacrifice stalks of celery myself. However, I advocate bipartisanship with those asswipes over at the RNC,” she added. “Anything to make those skeevy bastards look bad.”

Further problems are expected from a Republican-sponsored rider to the bill. Called the “Rich People Are Better Than You Act”, it requires most of the leftover carcasses be distributed to the Top 0.999% of wage earners, along with a $356,000 tax credit just because.

Democrats object to the best meat going to the wealthy, wool-clad elite while only the offal, eyes, and tail are promised to the bottom taxpayers.

The Republican plan calls for middle-income families to pay a 37% tax on all orders of lamb chops or rack of lamb served at the haute Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. Democrats also expect Republicans to cut the entitlement after its passage and repossess the sheep parts when low-income families default on their orvis aries windfall. The low-income families will likely be taxed an Offal Abatement Fee of about 69% to cover the costs of removing the left over pig.

With the new proposal already on bumpy footing, Republican lawmakers have called for Newt Gingrich to mediate the ongoing disputes.

“Newt’s the perfect man for the job. Very fair. A very learned man. And, he’s a hell of a Republican,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Sheep Sexingville, VA).

“Not partial in what so any way, except in his strong American belief in the truth,” Cantor added.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!



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