New Polls: Senate Races in KY, PA, FL, LA, & MO and Generic Ballot

All sorts of new polls out this week; it’s a junkie’s dream. Good news for Democrats on the generic ballot and presidential approval, and in Senate races, decent news in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, bad but expected news in Florida and Louisiana, and just plain bad news in Missouri.

In Kentucky, a new PPP poll shows Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo leading AG Jack Conway in the Democratic primary for Senate, 36-27. I’m not sure what to make of this poll – the last public poll, from SurveyUSA, had Mongiardo up just 3, and that was before a number of corruption scandals became public. Conway internals had him leading after the scandals broke. I’m going to continue to assume that this race is a toss-up. Also in Kentucky, PPP finds Rand Paul leading Trey Grayson 46-28 in the Senate GOP primary, a much more expected result, and Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin tied at 24 in a way-too-early presidential primary poll.

Still in KY-SEN, Rasmussen finds that Conway is competitive in a general election while Mongiardo is not. You might find that odd, given that Conway is the progressive and this is Kentucky, but hey, ethics are ethics. Anyway, Rasmussen shows Conway with a 47-36 approval spread, as compared to Mongiardo’s 40-48. In the four hypothetical general election head-to-heads, no Repub candidate ever cracks 50%, and Conway always outpolls Mongiardo, trailing Grayson by 5 and Paul by 9 as compared to Mongiardo’s 14 and 16. Pretty compelling numbers, if electability is what you look for in a primary.

Leaving the south, in PA-SEN, two new polls show Admiral and decorated veteran Joe Sestak catching up with Swift Boating incumbent Arlen Specter, but he still has a long way to go. A new poll from Muhlenberg, their first with 402 LV Democrats and a 5% MOE, shows Sestak within the MOE at 46-42. Quinnipiac shows a much wider gap, with Specter leading 47-39, but Quinnipiac’s previous poll from a month earlier had it at 53-32. The takeaway is that Specter is still easily the favorite but that Sestak now has a real chance. At Pollster.com, Harry Enten analyzes different types of polls and their history in recent cycles, concluding that “this election is probably going to be a close one, and Specter better hope for a healthy turnout.”

Conway’s general and Sestak’s improving numbers are about the only good news out there for progressives. The first FL-SEN poll, from Rasmussen, to come out since Crist’s party switch is the worst news yet for Democrat Kendrick Meek: Crist 38, Rubio 34, Meek 17. The poll shows Rasmussen’s desire for money and speed – it’s N=500 in a one-day frame – but it nonetheless underlines what I’ve been saying for days. Crist’s move hurts Meek more than Rubio. Meek’s previous three-way low, also from Rasmussen, was 22, and his previous non-Rasmussen low was 24.

More bad news in both MO-SEN and LA-SEN. In Missouri, allegedly a toss-up and one of our best shots, Rasmussen has Repub Roy Blount leading Democrat Robin Carnahan 50-42. The good news is that it’s the right-leaning, automated phone response Rasmussen. Still, a trend is a trend, and Rasmussen’s previous two polls showed this race at 48-42 and 47-41. RCP gives him a lead of just one point, but that includes a September poll so it’s complete bunk. So far no good in Missouri. Louisiana isn’t much better, either. No, this race was never considered a toss-up, but with a horny felon running against a Blue Dog, you’d think we’d at least have a chance. And yet, admittedly Republican pollster Lane Grigsby of Opinion Research shows David “I like my prostitutes in diapers” Vitter leading Rep. Charlie Melancon 49-31. Vitter has a favorable/unfavorable of 55036, lower than Gov. Jindal (R)’s but higher than senator Landrieu or President Obama’s. The RCP average is Vitter by 15.3, which would actually be higher if they didn’t include numbers from last July.

But let’s end on a bright spot. In the Gallup generic ballot, Democrats are holding steady in a tie at 45-45. On the one hand, Democrats are in their worst generic ballot position ever, but on the other hand, this is the second week in a row Gallup has found a 45-45 tie, and it follows Democratic leads from YouGov/Polimetrix and ABC/Washington Post. Only the right-leaning Rasmussen finds a Repub lead.

The new CBS/New York Times poll also gives good news for Democrats. The President clocks in at a 51-39 approval rating. In previous monthly CBS polls, he was at 50-40, 49-41, and 46-45. Quibble with the numbers, but a trend is a trend. Maybe he’s above 50, maybe not, but President Obama and even Congressional Democrats have only improved their position over the past few months. CBS/NYT finds similar trends on specific issues, even those where the net remains negative.

Military Lands Black Hawks At Wounded Knee Gravesite

I just got back from a three-day trip to Rapid City and the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. On Saturday morning, I drove out to Wounded Knee to pay my respects with a friend who lives in Pine Ridge. Wounded Knee is the site of the 1890 massacre where 7th Cavalry soldiers killed as many as 300 innocent Indian men, women, and children, and of the 1973 American Indian Movement (AIM) standoff with federal agents. And now most recently, it is the site of a 2010 military blunder. Early Saturday afternoon, three Black Hawk military helicopters tried to land on the 1890 mass burial grave. Numerous blogs report these helicopters were affiliated with the 7th Cavalry, although that is unclear. What is clear is that while their intentions were educational and pure, they were also miscommunicated. A peaceful protest prevented their landing and many reservation residents remain justifiably outraged by the disprespectul choice of a landing site and the display of military force on sacred ground.

I was right there, but left moments before it happened with no clue of what was about to occur. I only wanted to feel the history and pay my respects, and did not stay long because the museum was closed and a crowd (the protesters, it turns out) was gathering by the current cemetery. My friend thought maybe it was a family gathering or a funeral, and out of respect stayed in the car. As we drove back towards the town of Pine Ridge, we saw three black helicopters flying extremely low to the ground. It was very confusing and a little troubling to see.

It turns out those helicopters were military Black Hawks, and just minutes after we saw them they attempted to land at the Wounded Knee burial ground. Protestors ran beneath two of the helicopters, which then flew away. In an Argus Leader story picked up nation-wide by the Associated Press, tribal president Theresa Two Bulls later said that the helicopters were bringing members of the Colorado National Guard to the reservation to learn about the Wounded Knee massacre and improve relations, an admirable purpose that was not properly communicated to area residents. That miscommunication reminds me of the fear many New Yorkers felt when Air Force One buzzed the Statute of Liberty last year. Even if it had been better disseminated, however, the presence of war machines at the massacre site would have remained highly inappropriate and disrespectful. The indigenous blog Censored News provides detail, and a video of the incident is below the fold:

The first helicopter landed a few feet from the mass grave. The Lakota men ran up to it, holding their staffs, yelling at the military to leave Wounded Knee, the elders did not want them there. As the other two helicopters began to descend, four women ran to get under the choppers, waving red banners and a United Nations flag. The helicopters came lower, the women did not budge. They yelled at the soldiers hanging out of the helicopters, “Leave, you are not wanted at Wounded Knee.” The three black helicopters flew away.

“Military transport coming to Wounded Knee? Why, to intimidate us? I came here to talk about my family, but now I am thinking, I am 80 years old, I pray every day. The Chairlady said to come here and talk about our families, but for people to make money off of this place, they shouldn’t do that. This is a place to pray, the military have no place here” said Stanley Looking Elk, an elder and former Tribal President.

Marie Not Help Him loudly questioned the people present, “Why are you doing this? I invited them here! My great grandfather Dewey Beard survived this. I wanted to tell our story,” saying she belongs to the Wounded Knee Survivor’s Association…

Olowan Martinez said, “The Tribe did not even tell us they were doing this, we found out last night, me and my children live right down the hill. The US military can go elsewhere to hear the story. Our ancestors at Wounded Knee were killed by the US military and my father, a Veteran of Wounded Knee 1973, lies buried there, they have no respect to come back to where they put the blood of our relatives on the ground.”

I am glad that the military wanted its soldiers to learn about the 1890 incident. That desire to improve relations is a good sign, but the way it was implemented is ironic proof of just how badly that education is needed. Why fly to sacred ground when you could fly to Rapid City, Pine Ridge, or any one of several nearby Nebraska airfields and drive the rest of the way? For the military, possibly even the 7th Cav, to bring in heavy war machines to the very ground where a previous 7th Cav had murdered hundreds of innocents was the height of insensitivity. To land by the burial ground itself was the height of disrespect and arrogance.

I'm not on the rez anymore, but from what I can tell online, tensions are running high. Russell Means, the legendary Sioux activist who led the 1973 standoff, said: “We the Lakotah People, do not want our massacred dead bodies of Men, Women and Children at the mass grave at Wounded Knee used for publicity by the United States Government nor their colonial corporation, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government.” (In all fairness, when Means labels the tribal government a pawn of the U.S. government, it should be noted that he has come very close to winning the presidency several times, including against Two Bulls in 2008.) Several YouTube comments liken the U.S. landing at Wounded Knee to the Lakota landing in Arlington National Cemetery. And the Aboriginal News Group writes,

This domestic military action is a deliberate insult and an obvious message of ongoing colonialism, state-sponsored racism and apathetic Indigenous genocide to all Indigenous peoples across the Fourth World; to the whole of the Lakota/Dakota Nation; and to the Indigenous residents of Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee. The symbolism of dispatching the Seventh Cavalry to Wounded Knee in an attempt to land weapons of mass destruction on Aboriginal sacred ground tells us how little this government, and this particular administration, respects the people of Indian Country and our significant historical perspective as survivors of the racist Euro-settler xenophobic purges waged against the Indian in the Americas

A resolution is being presented to the Tribal Council today that lays out the history of Wounded Knee and would continue the tribe’s attempts to get 20 Medals of Honor from the 1890 massacre revoked. It would also “not allow the United States Military from this time forward to come anywhere near the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre Mass Grave in order to demonstrate Honor and Respect for the Lakota people buried there, and to ensure a peaceful, nonviolent, weapon-free zone for the Mass Gravesite area.” Whether this resolution passes or not, the base commander of wherever it is in Colorado those helicopters were from would do well to apologize, and the Pentagon should revoke those 20 medals. Too little too late, but at least it would be something. And on the personal level - I wish we'd turned that car around to find out what the helicopters were doing. I would've asked those gathered if they wouldn't've minded a white boy joining the protest.

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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.

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Charlie Crist Set To Leave The GOP Tonight (Updated)

Florida Governor Charlie Crist will announce this evening that he is abandoning the Repub primary for FL-SEN and running as an independent. The event is set and he's told donors his decision. The Tampa Bay Times has the scoop. Below, why I don't think this helps Crist much.

Crist is telling key financial backers that he's running for senate with no party affiliation. The announcement is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Straub Park in downtown St Petersburg. They're expecting a small army of media, and it looks like Crist may have no Republican press staffers with him, and will rely on folks like local supporter Greg Truax and finance director Dane Eagle to deal with press inquiries.

His kick-off fundraiser is tentatively scheduled Fisher Island off Miami Beach, where his wife owns a a home.

NPR suggests that while he will lose many of his fundraisers, he won't lose them all, and that he will stay in the headlines by virture of his Governor bully pulpit. That may be the case, but even if not all his fundraising and press dry up, can he really raise the $25 million needed for a big state with multiple major media markets? 

Crist may be leading a three-way race in internal polls and Quinnipac now, but there are three reasons that I don't think that will hold up. One, even if outside politicians like Ah-nuhld come in to fundraise for him, no major outside PACs or 527s will donate. Two, he will lack the volunteer army and GOTV assistance that the Repub infrastructure would have provided him. Three, his frequent, politically opportunistic flip-flops are pretty transparent, so a "pox on both your houses" campaign like Lincoln Chafee can run for RI-GOV just won't work coming from Crist. He's a moderate Mitt Romney (even if Romney has endorsed Rubio).

This move keeps Crist's chances alive, but it doesn't take them off life support. It does, however, move Democrat Meek from rehab back to life support. As best I can tell, Rubio is still the favorite.

Update 5:38pm EDT: Rasmussen is out with a new three-way poll that shows Crist losing to Rubio, 37-30 (with Meek at 22).

Opposition to Civil Rights and Support for Big Banks in KY-SEN

The Senate primaries in Kentucky grow stranger and stranger by the day. In the Repub primary, Dr. Rand “Ron’s Son” Paul has said that he opposes all civil rights legislation, and in the Democratic primary, you have to wonder if Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo would have been only the second Democrat to oppose Wall Street reform in yesterday’s cloture vote.

In an editorial refusing to endorse either candidate in the Repub primary, the Louisville Courier Journal wrote of Paul and secretary of state Trey Grayson (emphasis my own):

[Grayson] is positioning himself to be a loyal foot soldier in Mr. McConnell's destructive, dishonest effort to undermine virtually every initiative from the Obama administration. The trouble with Dr. Paul is that despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream. For instance, he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group. He quickly emphasizes that he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination, but he just doesn't think it should be legislated…

Mr. Grayson seems to have been blindsided by [Paul’s insurgent success]. He seems physically and mentally dazed, and uncomfortable in his own skin as he responds by rolling out extreme right-wing positions. His rapid movement to the far right leaves many wondering what he really stands for.

One of the two Democratic candidates isn’t much better. Yesterday, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was the only Democrat to oppose Wall Street reform, but if Mongiardo were a sitting Senator he might have been the second. At a recent forum, Mongiardo said that “too-big-to-fail” isn’t a problem: “These banks and these insurance companies didn't fail because they got too big; they failed because they deregulated. Regulations had been in place for decades and generations.” His Democratic opponent, however, state Attorney General Jack Conway, has shown a sharper understanding of the problem: “Some of those companies got too big and it's because they had these silly derivatives that they hid from the public.” To be fair, the scandal-plagued Mongiardo has called on fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell to stop blocking regulatory reform, but he was awful silent while McConnell was lying up a storm about the bill’s substance, and has virtually echoed the Repub leader’s language on health care reform.

Thankfully, polls show that this race can be a bright spot for Democrats in an otherwise dark year – but it won’t be worth it if we nominate Mongiardo. He might be a little better than the two Repubs, but who cares when the guy’s already to the right of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln? If he’s this conservative now, how much worse will he get outside of a Democratic primary?

Conway has picked up a lot of momentum lately, including support from the Kentucky Professional Firefighters Association, Steelworkers Local 14581, Teamsters Local Union No. 651, Daily Kos, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the Northern Kentucky Enquirer. He’s closed the gap in the polls against Mongiardo, and can win the primary on May 18 – but only if the Netroots put him over the top. Please, help a progressive brother out and donate to the Conway campaign.

First Cloture Attempt for Wall Street Reform Fails; Ben Nelson Votes With Party Of No

As expected, today's Senate vote for cloture on Wall Street reform failed, 58-42. As expected, Republicans stuck together as the Party of No. The real surprise is that conservative Senator Ben Nelson (DINO-NE) broke ranks to vote against cloture.

Wall Street reform isn't dead. Dodd and Shelby will probably hammer out a bill later this week or next and we'll try again. As such, I could care less about this legislative delay; my focus (this week) is not on Wall Street, but on Nelson. It's a darned shame he probably won't run for re-election, because I would love to do everything I can to defeat him. And post-Lieberman, it's not like we can count on Reid to strip him of subcommittee chairs for his behavior over this, climate legislation, and the public option.

The only thing we can do is pass filibuster reform when the Senate rules change in January. Wall Street reform... immigration reform... energy reform... health care reform... reform is the change we can believe in, but it seems more and more to be impossible without filibuster reform.

Here's Anne Lowery's take on Nelson's vote.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has voted no on the cloture motion to start debate on Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) financial regulatory reform bill — meaning the motion will likely fail, 58 to 42, short of the 60 votes needed. Republicans will tout this as an extraordinary victory demonstrating bipartisan opposition to moving forward on financial regulation until the bill is tried, tested and sorted. But my guess is that Nelson knew the motion would not pass, having failed to garner Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) vote earlier today, and decided not to vote for it at that point.

Regardless, the optics are terrible. Nelson’s “Cornhusker kickback” delayed health care reform. Today, news broke that Warren Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway and a resident of Omaha, lobbied for the Senate Agriculture Committee, on which Nelson sits, to create a derivatives loophole that would benefit his company to the tune of billions, a proposal Senate Democrats swatted down. And now, Nelson is holding up progress on the financial front again.

Scott Simon On Judicial Diversity

Talk surrounding Supreme Court diversity these days seems to focus around two things: judicial experience and educational background. Most of our justices are circuit court judges from elite universities; how about a Governor or legal advocate from a public university, ask critics?

I always enjoy listening to Scott Simon's essays on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, and yesterday he took hold of the argument for judicial diversity and broadened the categories even further. I think he's right. There's nothing wrong with Ivy League justices - not if we're going to argue that the pursuit of education is a good thing - but we do need diversity.

Some people believe that nominating a justice who got a great legal education and trial experience in the west or south might enliven discussion on a court where Harvard and Yale predominate. Five of the justices are from the northeast, and only one is from the south, which hardly reflects where people live in America today. Placing an avowed atheist, an active evangelical, an open gay or a former public defender might be a bolder step to express America than the usual categories by which we have come to keep score of diversity. America has become so gloriously varied, the old categories may feel a little narrow now. And, they'll only change.

A public defender from the West on the Supreme Court. Now I like that idea. You can listen to the full essay below the jump.

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Climate Bill's Delay May Be A Good Thing

As Charles mentioned, the the long-awaited Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (KGL) energy and climate bill will NOT be unveiled on Monday as expected. Now that Harry Reid plans to move immigration legislation first, Graham is threatening to walk and Kerry has put the bill on hold. With the midterms looming, putting immigration first already virtually assured that climate legislation wouldn’t move this year; Graham’s stunt all but guarantees it.

I’m shocked to hear myself saying this, but: good.

I’ve spent the past year pushing hard for this bill both on MyDD and in my professional life, but over the past few days I have come to believe that a delay might actually be a good thing. That belief may run counter to conventional wisdom – Kerry said this year is the “last and best shot” for passing a bill and Politico’s tone echoes that sentiment – but KGL has deteriorated so much that waiting for a better bill after next January’s filibuster reform might actually be worth it. Once the rules for the next Congress are written, we may be able to get not just a stronger bill but an infinitely stronger bill than what could pass now.

Generally in politics I’m a fan of an incremental, something-is-better-than-nothing approach, and I started out that way on KGL. I hate to say it, but tipping point or not, the goal isn’t to write perfect legislation but to write passable legislation. To this end I was willing to swallow the KGL oil give-aways in exchange for the first carbon price in history and new subsidies for clean energy.

On Friday, however, it was reported that the bill would remove “the states' authority to set tougher emissions standards than the federal government.” And that’s beyond even the most pragmatic pale. So much of current federal energy and environmental laws originated with the states, particularly California. Banning the states from taking tougher action than the federal government would by itself turn this bill from a first step to a last step. It would stymie innovation and destroy our best tool for continuing to move the ball forward. I can swallow imperfection if it allows room for further improvement, but it appears that KGL was going to block such improvement for ever and always.

It now looks like this might be a non-issue. I feel sorry for the three negotiators who have been stabbed in the back, but maybe it’s best this way. The bill contained its many poison pills because of the 60-vote threshold the Repubs have for the first time in history imposed on nearly all Senate business. Come January, however, I am confident that Democrats will still control at least 53 seats and that some sort of filibuster reform will be reality. 

We can get a better bill with fewer votes then than we can with 60 votes now. KGL has sunk so much that the difference between those two bills might actually be enough to make flirting with the tipping point worth it.

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Florida GOP To Enforce "Loyalty Oath" Against Crist Supporters

Glenn Beck has, in recent weeks, been trying to rehab Joe McCarthy's legacy. Apparently he's not the only one.

As Florida Governor Charlie Crist moves closer towards running for the Senate as an Independent rather than as a Repub, the Executive Director of the Florida GOP is demanding the enforcement of a "Party Loyalty Oath." Any Repub committee members who support Independent candidates "would be in violation of the RPOF Rules and would be subject to removal from party office and membership on Republican executive committees." From a memo to Executive Director Ronnie Whitaker from Jason Gonzalez, the party's General Counsel:

At your request, I have prepared the following memorandum involving the interpretation of Republican Party of Florida Rule 9 (Party Loyalty Oath). You specifically asked me to determine whether the Party Loyalty Oath would allow state and county executive committee members to support a registered Republican running with no party affiliation in a general election over the candidate nominated in the Republican primary election. As described below, my conclusion is that the Party Loyalty Oath forbids Republican Executive Committee members from supporting any candidate other than the candidate nominated by the voters of the Republican Party through its primary election...

In sum, Republican Party of Florida Rule 9 prohibits any member of the Republican State Executive Committee or of any County Executive Committee from “actively, publicly, or financially” supporting a candidate running with no party affiliation over “the Republican candidate” chosen in the primary election. Any member who fails to formally revoke his or her public support and request the return of any contributions made to a candidate running against the candidate of the Republican Party would be in violation of the RPOF Rules and would be subject to removal from party office and membership on Republican executive committees.

While it's not unreasonable for a political party to require its leaders to support its candidates, the use of the specific phrase "loyalty oath" is a little chilling and suggests that the Repub Party hasn't moved past the knee-jerk McCarthyite mindset of the 1950s. I would also point out that the Democratic Party did not pull this kind of a stunt when Joe Lieberman bolted in 2006. The next time someone tries to call the Democrats the party of narrow-mindedness, just remind them of this.

Create a Climate CBO

Reports about what will and what won’t be in next week’s Kerry-Graham-Lieberman energy bill are growing more and more troubling. Check out these articles from Treehugger and Mother Jones on the bill’s likely provisions.

A lot of environmental groups are going to support this bill on the theory that it’s better than nothing. Others will oppose it, citing the provisions that ban the EPA and state governments from acting more aggressively than Congress. They’ll say that the bill stymies further progress, and that we can do better post-filibuster reform but only if we don’t mislabel this as “progress” now. I’m not sure who’s right. I’ve been inclined to support this bill all along and have urged Senator Ben Nelson to vote for it, but these latest reports are troubling. I’ll make up my mind next week, once the bill actually drops and rumors become fact (or don’t).

It would be much easier figuring out if this bill is worth supporting if Congress had an environmental equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). I think we need a Congressional Climate Office or Congressional Environmental Office that would similarly “score” bills not for their financial cost or effect on the budget but for their carbon footprint and their environmental impacts. We already require Environmental Impact Statements for many construction projects; why not do so for bills and laws, as well?

An official climate “score” on KGL would go a long way towards helping lawmakers, energy experts, and environmentalists balance the bill’s provisions against each other and against the status quo. KGL will contain many compromises and it will contain many steps forward; a CCO could give at least one formal estimate on how the positives and negatives stack up. Whether this particular bill passes or not, it’s time for Congress to create a Congressional Climate Office to better steward the country’s landscapes and resources.

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