Sen. Mark Udall has done a functional job in his first term as Colorado’s senior Senator. Far from leveraging his huge bases of support in the Denver-Boulder metro area, Sen. Udall has made more effort to reach across the aisle to the psychotic Cons of the 111th Congress who have ground the U.S. Senate to a near halt. I have argued in numerous posts in plain and simple terms why this is such a bad idea. To date, and in extreme summary form, we have a half-assed Stimulus Bill, a Health Care Insurance Bill Giveaway, a Wall St. Reform Scott Free Bill and no Climate and Energy Bill. This situation largely exists because people like Sen. Udall and President Obama want to spend more time chasing the Holy Bipartisan Grail than passing powerful progressive legislation that might actually move this country forward in this 21st century. To be clear, I do not consider either man to be a progressive; nor did I consider them to be so prior to the 2008 election. The place I’m arguing from is that this country badly needs progressive legislation and we’re ill-served by the current crop of politicians who don’t care that the Senate is broken.
Recently, Sen. Udall announced that he really, really badly wants a National 25% Renewable Energy Standard by 2025 bill passed during this session of Congress. That’s fair enough, I suppose. Sen. Udall did establish some credentials as an environmental advocate in the state of Colorado and during his time as 2nd district Representative in the House. But, as I’ve also argued in numerous posts, the U.S. Senate is where good legislation goes to die. By moving from his base of support and joining the Quest for the Holy Bipartisan Grail in the Senate, I challenge the Senator on his calls for an RES. If he’s not serious about truly enacting such a policy, or if he wants to give utilities policies they support in return for weakening the RES in any way, I’m not interested in listening to his announcements.
Majority Leader Sen. Reid has publicly said he doesn’t have 60 votes to get past the Cons’ weak filibuster threat. So since Sen. Udall has staked so much of his personal political capital on discovering the Holy Bipartisan Grail, I would like to hear much more of his personal plans to convince enough Senators to pass his oh-so-wanted RES language. If Sen. Udall is actually serious about passing that language, he certainly must already have a pathway to getting the necessary number of CorporateDems (Lincoln, Nelson, Landrieu, etc.) and self-identified “moderate” Republicans (Collins, Snowe) lined up so his RES goal is achieved. He must know how to get them while at the same time not letting his Majority Leader know what that plan is. Because this won’t be a case where it’s the environmentalists fault that legislation didn’t get passed, any more than it was their fault the Senate dropped the Climate Bill ball on their own 5-yard line.
The announcement sounds really good. Unfortunately, that 60-vote roadblock continues to stand in his our way. And while Sen. Udall made some noise back in 2009 regarding the filibuster and a public option, Sen. Udall remains wishy-washy on the filibuster reform subject [emphasis mine]:
I am reviewing both of those proposals. I am a reformer by nature, and I’m deeply concerned that the Senate isn’t working as effectively as it might, and must.
The filibuster has been abused — over a hundred filibusters in the first half of this Congress. We’ve already beaten the record for a two-year session of the Senate, in one year! At the same time I want to make sure the rights of political minorities and small states are protected; that is the essential idea behind the creation of the Senate in the first place.
Both my cousin’s idea and Sen. Harkin’s draw attention to the fact that if we continue working like we are now — not working, I should say — we’re going to continue to lose the trust of the American people. We’re not going to be able to respond to the challenges that America faces.
Allow me to be blunt. Protecting small states rights’ isn’t the issue, Sen. Udall. A functioning government is the issue. When Senators representing ~30% of the U.S.’ population can hold hostage legislation that the other 70% of the population supports, that’s undemocratic. There is nothing democratic, in fact, about requiring a 60% vote in order to even talk about legislation. If it was democratic, we would require that Senators need 60% of the people’s vote in order to get elected. How often would that happen? No, democracies are based on simple majorities, Sen. Udall. Most important of all, the physical climate does not care what the vote requirement in the U.S. Senate is, or how much Sen. Udall personally want to ensure rural Senators can continue derailing desperately needed legislative advances without being held responsible for doing so.
By the time Sen. Udall finds enough Cons to make nice and vote for a meaningful RES, more climate change catastrophes (like the 2010 Russian heat wave, the 2010 Pakistani floods, etc.) and more major climate stories (the 2010 US east coast heat wave, the 7:1 ratio of US 2010 record highs to record lows, etc.) will have happened. It will be amazingly expensive tomorrow to enact the exact same policies that Sen. Udall says he supports today. Unfortunately for the sad little people ( the kind that don’t write checks bankrolling election campaigns) he and the other Senators represent, those policies won’t mitigate climate change enough to prevent drastic impacts to our society, our civilization and our global ecosystems, no matter how much money we’re eventually forced to pay.
Sign on to your cousin’s effort to reform the filibuster, Sen. Udall. Heck, sign on to Sen. Harkin’s. Or you could go extra crazy and even sign on to appointed-Senator Bennet’s effort, since he’s supposedly representing Coloradans just like you. You can say you want your RES passed until you’re blue in the face. Will you do anything to reform the broken chamber of government you’re a part of, or will you do something to show Coloradans that you really are a reformer?
More to my original point, where is the bipartisanship that Sen. Udall constantly pursues so he can build up his D.C. credentials? Either he hasn’t secured Republican votes because he isn’t good at doing so or he isn’t really trying to secure those votes on major Democratic legislative items. If Sen. Udall wants to be judged as to how well he works with the Cons, I would advocate we do so. As of now, the results aren’t looking too good for him.
The 21st century challenge called climate change demands more than the habits of 20th century politicians can provide. I don’t care if politicians have an R or a D behind their name. They’re either serious about addressing issues or they’re serious about keeping themselves in power. Americans don’t want Democrats to pursue bipartisanship at the exclusion of getting things done. Americans want things done and if one or two Cons come along with us to get those things done, good for them. Do the hard work of crafting and trying to pass good legislation. Even if the effort fails, at least there will be clearly defined targets come next election day. As things stand today, Democrats still seem far too willing to throw legislation aside in their Bipartisan-Grail Quest.