Political Focus as Climate Bill Goes to the Senate
Climate change legislation that passed the House on Friday, and is now headed to the Senate, was a key topic on yesterday’s Sunday morning television news programs.
An article posted yesterday at CQPolitics.com reported that, “Republicans continued Sunday to hammer the House-passed energy bill, calling it a ‘job-killer’ and one that will bring a ‘light-switch tax’ while a White House adviser countered that the GOP was using ‘inaction as a strategy’ to combat the nation’s energy problems.
“‘We’re trying to solve a problem that has languished for a decade, the problem of energy that has bedeviled us for a long time,’ presidential adviser David Axelrod said on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ ‘And they’re talking about how they can use it as an issue, inaction as somehow a strategy. And that’s not a strategy.’”
To listen to Mr. Axelrod’s analysis on the climate bill from yesterday’s “This Week” program, just click here (MP3-2:57).
Silla Brush, writing yesterday at The Hill Online, quoted Mr. Axelrod as saying; “I think this energy bill will probably be dealt with in the Senate in the fall. Healthcare will be the first thing on the agenda.”
Also on yesterday’s “This Week” show, host George Stephanopoulos interviewed Iowa GOP Senator Charles Grassley and they also discussed the climate bill.
Sunday’s CQ article indicated that, “On the same program, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, noting that the CBO is ‘like God around Washington when they say something,’ said the $175 figure is not the real issue. [In a June 19 report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the House legislation would cost households an average of $175 a year in 2020.]
“‘We had economists telling us that when you filter all of these increases in energy through every step of the economy, manufacturing a product or whatever services might come, we have come out with about $3,000 for a family of four,’ he said. ‘Now I won’t argue $175 vs. $3,000 because that’s not the most important issue. You’ve got to look at what is happening to our economy if we put this very strong tax on energy. The people that have been complaining for 10 years about the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to China are the very same ones pushing cap and trade.’”
To listen to the complete exchange between Sen. Grassley and George Stephanopoulos on the climate bill issue, just click here (MP3- 1:55).
Yesterday’s CQ article also pointed out that, “Appearing on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, ‘I hope it won’t pass the Senate. The president himself said last year it will lead to skyrocketing electricity increases. Think of it as a light switch tax. … I think it’s going to lead to significant increases in electricity across America in an effort to try to deal with a global problem.’
“McConnell said if ‘we do have a global warming problem, and many people believe we do, we need to target it on a global basis. The way to get at it is to build more nuclear power plants which don’t have a CO2 emission problem and to develop the kind of technology to burn coal cleanly.’”
Sen. McConnell’s complete comments on the climate bill from yesterday’s Fox News show are available here (MP3-1:51).
Also on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday program, a panel of Washington, D.C. pundits discussed the climate bill and the likelihood of Senate passage in a very interesting roundtable discussion, to listen to this analysis, just click here (MP3-6:36).
Meanwhile, Mike Allen reported yesterday at Politico.com that, “White House senior adviser David Axelrod says the energy and climate bill passed by the House was crafted to ‘ameliorate some of the hard edge that people were worried about, and I think that will carry the day in the Senate.’
“‘There’s a growing awareness that we need to move on energy,’ Axelrod said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘We’ve been waiting for decades. And this bill will create millions of clean-energy jobs. It will deal with … our dependence on foreign oil, and we have to deal with that. And it deals this deadly pollution and global warming that we have to move on.”
To listen to Mr. Axelrod’s complete analysis of the climate bill on yesterday’s “Meet the Press” program with David Gregory, just click here (MP3-1:57).
Tory Newmyer reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “Leading Republican Senators on Sunday blasted the climate change package that cleared the House late last week and suggested it stands little chance of success in their chamber.
“‘This bill coming out of the House is going nowhere in the Senate,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’” [full audio comments from Sen. Graham available here (MP3-:48)).
However, in a roundtable discussion with Washington pundits on yesterday’s “Meet the Press” program, former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Meyers provided this observation on the executive branch ability to successful pursue its legislative agenda, including climate change legislation, in the Senate (audio- MP3-1:12); “We haven’t heard the last from this administration, they are going to fight and they are going to win.”
Carolyn Lochhead reported on Saturday at the San Francisco Chronicle Online that, “Nor is there any guarantee the legislation will clear the Senate, where failure would leave vulnerable House Democrats hanging with nothing to show for a risky vote. Such a course would parallel the infamous BTU energy tax proposed by President Bill Clinton nearly two decades ago. That tax cleared the House by a single vote cast by a hapless Pennsylvania first-term Democrat who promptly lost her seat after the Senate buried the bill.
“Senate passage will be in the hands of California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, an ardent proponent of cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse gases who often clashes with conservatives. Boxer plans action in her Environment and Public Works Committee by the end of July and believes she laid a path through the minefield of regional interests in a trial run on a similar bill last year that secured 54 votes, before Democrats added to their Senate majority in November's election.”
Climate Bill: House Reflections
As focus on the climate bill goes to the Senate, a few interesting articles on House passage have also been written recently.
Molly K. Hooper reported on Saturday at The Hill Online that, “Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a few choice words about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) landmark climate-change bill after its passage Friday.
“When asked why he read portions of the cap-and-trade bill on the floor Friday night, Boehner told The Hill, ‘Hey, people deserve to know what's in this pile of s--t.’”
Greg Giroux provided an excellent analysis of the House climate bill vote on Friday at CQPolitics Online where he noted that, “Most of the 52 House members who didn't side with their party on Friday's climate change vote represent congressional districts that backed the presidential nominee of the opposite party in last year's election.
“A lot of these members will face competitive races in 2010, and no doubt they will be brandishing this against-the-grain vote as evidence of their political independence.”
Bob Cusack also provided a very detailed look at Friday’s House vote in an article posted yesterday at the Hill Online entitled, “The lawmakers who pushed climate bill to passage.”
And an update posted yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online stated that, “While the Climate Change bill, HR 2454, passed the House by a slim 219 to 212 margin on Friday, the members of the House Ag Committee, rejected the measure by a 31 to 15 vote. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson was able to persuade 14 of his Democratic colleagues to join him in a yes vote, which means that the Democratic majority within the Committee said yes by a 15 to 13 margin, while all 18 Republicans sided with Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas, the ranking Minority member of the Committee.”
Meanwhile, Carl Hulse reported yesterday at the New York Times Online that, “In a Congress likely to consider a health care overhaul, new ways to govern the financial sector and immigration changes after already approving a $787 billion economic stimulus, there is serious competition for the title of defining vote.
“But the climate change measure, a high priority of President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will no doubt be right at the top of the list. Interest groups on both sides of the issue promise to hinge their support on how lawmakers vote on the bill and actively oppose those who go the other way.”
Climate Bill: Trade Issues
In other developments regarding the climate bill, John M. Broder reported in today’s New York Times that, “President Obama on Sunday praised the energy bill passed by the House late last week as an ‘extraordinary first step,’ but he spoke out against a provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that do not accept limits on global warming pollution.
“‘At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade,’ Mr. Obama said, ‘I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there.’”
The Times article added that, “Mr. Obama, hoping to build momentum in the Senate after the narrow victory in the House, delayed the start of a Sunday golf game to speak to a small group of reporters in the Oval Office [transcript here].
“He acknowledged that the initial targets for reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases set by the House bill were quite modest and would probably not satisfy the governments of other countries or many environmental groups. But he said he hoped to build on those early targets in fashioning a more robust program in the future as part of his administration’s efforts to move the nation from an economy based on fossil fuels toward one built on renewable energy sources.
“Mr. Obama predicted that similar energy legislation would face a difficult slog through the Senate and require months of tough negotiations and additional compromises. The horse-trading and vote-buying that helped House leaders secure a 219-to-212 victory will be magnified in the Senate, where several powerful committee leaders are already asserting authority and Democratic moderates hold more power than their counterparts in the House.”
Steven Mufson indicated in today’s Washington Post that, “[Pres. Obama] said he hopes that Congress will strip out a clause that would impose a tariff in 2020 on imports from countries without systems for pricing or limiting carbon dioxide emissions.
“‘At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out,’ Obama said. He said other portions of the House bill provide protections for energy-intensive U.S. manufacturers worried about competition from such nations as China and India.”
Greg Hitt and Naftali Bendavid reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Among the most controversial parts of the House bill is the provision inserted by Democratic leaders that would impose tariffs on goods imported from countries that don’t match U.S. carbon-dioxide restrictions — a slap at China and India that some business interests fear could provoke a trade war. The tariff would take effect in 2020 and fall on a range of products from countries that don’t adopt similar programs to control emissions.
“Supporters say a tariff is needed to shield U.S. industries such as steel and cement makers from unfair competition abroad. The proposal also is designed to give Congress leverage to force imposition of a tariff even if the president resists.”
In a related article from Friday, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported (link requires subscription), “As the U.S. Congress debates its own legislation to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions, the World Trade Organization stated on Friday that countries can impose carbon-reduction demands domestically and on trading partners without violating WTO rules.
“The WTO and United Nations Environmental Program issued a joint report looking at climate change mitigation efforts and how they relate to trade.
“The WTO and United Nations urged countries to reach a global agreement on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions at the U.N. climate meeting later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. The groups also pushed nations to conclude the Doha trade round, which includes opening trade in environmental goods and services, a complementary track toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to scientifically defensible levels.”
Matthew L. Wald reported in today’s New York Times that, “Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuels, a start-up company, are set to announce Monday that they will build a demonstration plant that, if successful, would use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol as a vehicle fuel or an ingredient in plastics.
“Because algae does not require any farmland or much space, many energy companies are trying to use it to make commercial quantities of hydrocarbons for fuel and chemicals. But harvesting the hydrocarbons has proved difficult so far.
“The ethanol would be sold as fuel, the companies said, but Dow’s long-term interest is in using it as an ingredient for plastics, replacing natural gas. The process also produces oxygen, which could be used to burn coal in a power plant cleanly, said Paul Woods, chief executive of Algenol, which is based in Bonita Springs, Fla. The exhaust from such a plant would be mostly carbon dioxide, which could be reused to make more algae.”
Philip Brasher reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “The government wants kids to eat more fruits and vegetables but doesn’t seem to be putting its money where its advice is.
“For every dollar that the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent buying commodities for school lunches last year, 55 cents went to beef, chicken and cheese vs. about 23 cents for fruits and vegetables.
“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stumped a group of Iowa business leaders recently by asking them what was the single food item for schools that the USDA spent the most on. His answer: mozzarella cheese.”
Mr. Brasher indicated that, “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation produced a study last year of USDA food-buying practices that was illustrated with two pyramids. One was the traditional USDA food-guide pyramid, which recommends eating more fruits and vegetables than anything else. The other pyramid showed what USDA buys for schools. The pyramids were reversed.
“The dairy industry, it should be no surprise, doesn’t think the USDA is buying too much cheese.
“‘Kids need nutrition and mozzarella is a fairly cost-effective, high-nutrition food, and it’s one that people, especially kids, like,’ said Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation.”
The Register article explained that, “Congress is due to update rules for the school lunch program this year, and lawmakers are likely to consider giving schools incentives to buy more fruits and vegetables. But there’s unlikely to be much appetite for cutting back on the meat and cheese.
“‘What’s caused the obesity epidemic is not the school lunches and school breakfasts, it’s the junk kids get in the a la carte lines and the school stores and the vending machines,’ said Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.”
Jane Black reported in today’s Washington Post that, “It didn’t seem like a radical idea at the time. First, Ginger Gray, the food service director for Kenton County, Ky., schools, took away fried potato chips, offering students baked versions instead. Next, she phased out fruit drinks such as Kool-Aid in favor of 100 percent juices. She considered serving baked french fries. But they got soggy and unappetizing fast. And there’s one thing that every school food service director knows: You don’t mess with the fries.
“It was a calculated effort to encourage students to eat more healthfully. A registered dietician, Gray believes her job isn’t just to feed students but also to teach good eating habits.
“But there was a risk. The salty snacks and sugary drinks, sold in cafeteria a la carte lines and vending machines, were reliable moneymakers for the 17 schools in Gray’s district, where one-third of students eat federally subsidized lunches.
“But a funny thing happened. When the numbers came in, Gray found she was making more money, not less. With fewer junk foods available, more students opted for the traditional lunch line, where Gray offers items such as salads, submarine sandwiches and make-your-own tacos. At Simon Kenton High School, revenue rose 61 percent between 2005 and 2007 without a price increase for school meals.”