On Friday morning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) forced a cloture vote to end debate on the Lieberman-Warner “climate tax” bill. He needed to stop the political bleeding among his caucus caused by their enthusiastic promotion of the measure at the time when public attention to gasoline prices is intense and angry. Gasoline prices have increased at least $1.66 since the Democrats won the majority.
Reid won by losing the vote because that ensured his team would not get stuck voting on the substance of a bill designed to cause energy prices to rise considerably in order to penalize Americans into using substantially less of it. Yet the toll was mounting from simply promoting the biggest tax increase in history and largest expansion of intrusive government power since the New Deal.
Environment Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), among others, denied the obvious economic effects of the measure. This begged the question of why she earmarked billions in the bill for unemployment insurance (and maintenance of current health benefits) and transition assistance for workers and others harmed by the bill’s burdens.
With the scheme defeated for at least the next year, it is important to reflect upon how we got here, why we won, and where to go next.
This bill only came to the floor, in only one body, because of demands by “green” pressure groups and rent-seeking corporate members of the massive global warming industry. Greens actually were split because the radical, 494-page proposal didn’t go far enough for some. This might even signal some limited intellectual honesty, given that no one claims even the massive Lieberman-Warner would effect the climate in any measurable way.
The Senate’s forced action after a six-year-long shriek by Democrats that “we must act now!” came after word leaked that Boxer desired to simply use the issue for political purposes. This is facially suspect given that Sen. John McCain was a bit over-wrought about global warming back when Sen. Barack Obama was voting to fill potholes in Chicago. Which was almost yesterday, come to think of it.
The week-long thrashing this bill and its supporters took only affirmed the questionable nature of the politics. Still, the greens hit the ceiling upon learning that their desired market socialism was not in fact in the cards from a majority they felt they had worked for and, to some extent, paid for.
The problem for the Democrats was that they chose the politically dumbest time to try this stupidest of economic stunts. While Boxer is reportedly already meeting “with swing-vote lawmakers from farm states who still have concerns about the bill” (according to “Greenwire”), which is code for “trying to buy them off”, no matter how much more pork is piled on the public has now been sensitized to the reality of this energy-rationing scheme.
Debate over the collapsing science behind the global warming agenda was eschewed in favor of exposing the bill’s massive costs. By Wednesday a Roll Call article revealed Democratic staffers and even the greens were howling over how clumsily Boxer and Reid led them into this crossfire, with no exit strategy. To their credit, Senate Republicans largely performed well.
This brings us to today’s lesson: press on. Damn the torpedos, let someone else worry about your flanks, and so on.
The Lieberman-Warner scheme has been accurately tarred as climatically meaningless, tax-increasing, pork-ladling and economy-whacking eco-socialism. Congress, for now, fears the prospect of voting openly – or even, as was largely the case here, indirectly – to increase the price consumers pay for energy. The public seems to grasp that it is lawmakers, not greedy oil company executives, that caused the scarcity and price run-up.
Now industry needs to get a spine. When I learned of Boxer’s gambit in January 2007, I called as many potentially affected parties together as I could and urged them to capitalize on this fear. Demand a vote on what was shrilly, insincerely demanded for six years. Better yet, offer the (supposedly) beloved Kyoto Treaty for ratification, saying if you’re going to spend trillions on this for nothing you might as well make it look like you’re really trying. In short, call them on the posturing.
The reaction was appalling. Industry lobbyists blanched, asking “but what if they ratify it?” I named Socialist Bernard Sanders, and asked where might the other 66 votes come from? Get a clue, people: the global warming poseurs want nothing to do with actually getting caught sticking you with the bill for this agenda. Cowboy up. Wise up. Heck, grow up.
They’ve tried the front door of a “BTU tax”, and now the back with “cap-and-trade”. They will define the next trick as environmental salvation if something other than a tax, unless you fight back, instead of seek to cut deals. Understand that when you do the right thing the name-callers will call you names. They’ll keen about the sky falling, and the public will look up and notice it still isn’t. By that point, the energy-rationers will pretty much have run out of tricks. Their shtick isn’t working. The boy has cried wolf and, despite the alarmist campaign spending several hundred million dollars — per year — the public still is no closer to accepting Lieberman-Warner or its ilk.
But what of President McCain or Obama, and their commitment to bring about global climate salvation? Apparently, that only extends only so far, and so not far that they actually came back to Washington to wed themselves and their lofty rhetoric to this bill once specifics of the pain had been aired, and the public were paying attention. They ran from this vote, and will again if you keep the press on.
The same reasons that led Sen. Reid to quickly pull Lieberman-Warner out of the spotlight make it clear. The Greens’ agenda is not inevitable, but it’s a winner for our team.