Capital Briefs December 21, 2009

MORE AMERICANS UNCONCERNED ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE: One week after the climate-change summit opened in Copenhagen and two weeks after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed skepticism about the issue among scientists and on Capitol Hill as “rather silly,” a just-completed Zogby Poll shows that only 35% of Americans nationwide are “somewhat” or “highly” concerned about the issue. The number of those who are not at all concerned about climate change has been gaining successively over the past three years — from 27% in 2007 to 37% now. In contrast, while 30% said they were highly concerned about climate change in ’07, today only 20% feel that way.  

STEELE COMES OUT SWINGING: As the health care debate intensified last week, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele announced that his committee would launch a huge, six-figure radio blitz nationwide underscoring how and why Republicans have been blocking the Democrat-crafted healthcare “reform” package in the Senate. Decrying what he called “a lot of whining and complaining and noise about Republicans obstructing and blocking healthcare reform,” an unapologetic Steele told reporters that his party “wanted to stop and slow down and prevent a takeover of our healthcare system, that this experiment is not the way to do it.” Steele also announced that Republican National Committee staffers will be deployed to North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Arkansas, and Connecticut, all of which have Democratic senators who are “swing” votes on the healthcare package and that RNC-run town hall meetings will be held in those states beginning the week before Christmas. 

: To the surprise of the press and many of his colleagues, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.) slipped out of Washington December 17-18 and spent a few hours in Copenhagen. His departure was kept quiet, a former staffer told Human Events, “so [Senate Democratic Leader Harry] Reid wouldn’t try to push the healthcare bill through with one less Republican in the Senate.” Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, explained to reporters that he had jetted to the climate-change summit to “make certain the 191 countries attending the [conference] would not be deceived into thinking the U.S. would pass cap-and-trade legislation.” Inhofe also said that he thought that the chances were dim of achieving an agreement in Copenhagen that meets the conditions in the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (which warned the President against signing a treaty that would harm the U.S. economy or exempt developing nations from participating). “China, India, and other developing countries want nothing to do with absolute, binding emission cuts,” he said. “China and India have pledged to reduce the rate of growth or intensity of their emissions. But that’s not acceptable to the U.S. Senate.”

EXODUS FROM CONGRESS: With the sudden resignation of Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D.-Hawaii) and the retirement of 14-term Rep. Bart Gordon (D.-Tenn.) last week (see “Politics,” Page 18), the guessing continues as to whether a flood of Democratic House members will soon announce their exit. “Four retirements in and of themselves isn’t enough to create a big problem,” former Rep. Martin Frost, a past chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Washington Post.  “If there were to be 10 or 15 retirements like this, that is a problem for the DCCC.” In 1994, when Republicans won control of the House for the first time in four decades, 28 Democratic incumbents either stepped down from the House or sought another office and Republicans picked up 22 of their seats. So far, ten Democrats and 12 Republicans have said they are leaving the House in 2010.