That lede is pretty much a “Duh!” statement. Allow me to explain a little further. In this case, I’m referring to the handling of each issue as legislation begins to make its way through the 111th Congress. At this point in time, it appears as though health care legislation will be allowed to be reconciled into a budget package. Unfortunately, climate change won’t receive the same treatment. Personally, I’d rather it happen the other way around. I agree that our current health care system is completely broken and requires immediate attention. The same can be said for our climate system and there is much less support to act immediately, even though it presents a far graver threat to our society in the future if it isn’t fixed.
Specifically, I am writing about the restriction of having cap-and-trade legislation being allowed to the budget resolution by way of the reconciliation process, which was handled by an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). That’s to be pretty much expected – Johanns is a Con (as I will explain below). What I didn’t expect to read was the vote on the amendment: 67-31. That means that 26 Democrats voted to prevent its attachment. That means that 26 Democrats would rather the cap-and-trade legislation have to face a potential 60-vote hurdle instead of a 50-vote hurdle. That means that 26 Democrats have already voted once to make the cap-and-trade legislation weaker than it probably should be. That means that 26 Democrats probably don’t realize just how big a deal climate change really is.
Who are the 26 Democrats? I wanted to know the same thing. Here they are:
Max Baucus (Mont.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Jim Webb (Va.).
This is a hard group to characterize. I suppose one could start by saying they’re a bigger fan of tradition than they are of getting serious cap-and-trade legislation passed. That’s fine – it’s their prerogative to do so. I’m simply not impressed with the Democrats’ inability to communicate their reasons for votes coherently. I’ll point out that Sen. Bayh continues to play games with only himself. He is racking up quite a track record this Congress of voting against his party. As this legislation moves forward, he’ll be one vote I’ll be sure to track.
What about the health care portion of my commentary? Health care still has the potential to enter the reconciliation process. If it does, it will be in part because health care reformers have done more for longer than climate activists. There is a lot of corporate money and influence involved in both policy arenas, but in a general sense, it seems to me that more Americans are ready for major health care reform than are ready for major climate/energy reform. A big reason for this is the immediacy of the health care crisis and the relative non-immediacy of the climate crisis. The complexity of the climate doesn’t help matters. Once more people are directly affected by the effects of climate change, they’re sure to demand action. Unfortunately for all of us, that time might be too late.
That means scientists haven’t done their jobs yet. Scientists know the extent of the effects from climate change to come. They know how much of a threat is building. They know what must be done to avert it. Their efforts have been sorely lacking for too long. More scientists are starting to be increasingly blunt with the media and with policy makers. But more still needs to be done. The climate crisis far outweighs the health care crisis – and I know we’ve got the health care crisis. If the likliest climate change effects come to pass, I guarantee we won’t be as worried about health care delivery and affordability. Millions of climate refugees will guarantee the collapse of the health care system.
Elected officials continue to play their games this Congress. For all of our sakes, I wish that would end.
[Update]: I read this quote from Sen. Landrieu:
“The issue is still very much alive,” added Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who said she would work on cap-and-trade legislation through regular order so long as Senate Republicans also are on board.
That sounds really nice, Sen. Landrieu. What you haven’t expressed is what you and your fellow Senators who gave up your strength position on this issue will do when Senate Cons fight cap-and-trade. Make no mistake – they didn’t vote for the amendment because they believe in the process. They voted for it because they don’t want Democrats to establish a carbon market. When the cap-and-trade legislation is threatened by filibuster, how will you and your colleagues react? How many factors of the bill will you allow to be dropped or rewritten so 40 Senators are happy? How ineffective will the cap-and-trade legislation become because you supposedly would rather it work through regular order and the Cons would rather it not work at all? How many times will New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have to be devastated by hurricanes before you and others recognize something has to be done? How big do you want the Cons’ Climate Tax to be on future generations?