OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

The Inside Story of How the Climate Bill Died

October 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

By historical standards, the 111th Congress has been incredibly prolific. But on the most important issue facing humanity right now, they never even got so far as introducing a viable bill in the all-important upper chamber.

Ryan Lizza has a lengthy must-read piece in the new New Yorker that has just gone online about “how the Senate and the White House missed their best chance to deal with climate change.” In great detail it describes how the tri-partisan coalition of John Kerry [D, MA], Lindsey Graham [R, SC] and Joe Lieberman [I, CT] worked for months to strike a deal with all the parties involved (including private industry) on a climate bill that could get 60 votes in the Senate, only to see everything fall apart just days before their bill was set to be introduced because of neglect from the White House and Democratic leadership in Congress. In remembering the 111th Congress and the Democratic resurgence of the past half a decade, this tale of defeat deserves to be given at least as much attention as the legislative victories with health care and financial reform.

Towards the end of the article, Lizza has some observations from Al Gore that I think are spot on:

In September, I asked Al Gore why he thought climate legislation had failed. He cited several reasons, including Republican partisanship, which had prevented moderates from becoming part of the coalition in favor of the bill. The Great Recession made the effort even more difficult, he added. “The forces wedded to the old patterns still have enough influence that they were able to use the fear of the economic downturn as a way of slowing the progress toward this big transition that we have to make.”

A third explanation pinpointed how Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman approached the issue. “The influence of special interests is now at an extremely unhealthy level,” Gore said. “And it’s to the point where it’s virtually impossible for participants in the current political system to enact any significant change without first seeking and gaining permission from the largest commercial interests who are most affected by the proposed change.”

Comprehensive climate change legislation is dead this session, and probably will be dead for the next couple years, but there is still a chance that Congress will take up legislation when they come back in November that would force utilities to generate more of their power from renewable sources. There’s a new bill floating around from Sen. Sam Brownback [R, KS] and Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D, NM] (S.3813) that now has the backing of 4 Republicans, plus Lieberman. It would set a renewable energy standard of 15%, which is less than most environmental would like, but is an improvement over how much renewable energy we are producing currently. The bill is one of 20 or so that will be competing for floor time in the post-midterm lame-duck session.

Go read that article!

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.
 

Comments

  • DeborahJBrown 10/04/2010 5:41am

    I’m not sure that America could agree that THIS Congress has been “prolific” but I suppose it depends upon what we mean by prolific. This Congress has been most prolific at avoiding resolution to the most important issues facing America for the longest period of time-THAT certainly is true!This Congress has been most prolific at playing the most ridiculous political “games” while in session.This Congress has been most prolific at the largest amount of “no” votes for the least amount of sensible & logical reason! This Congress has been most prolific at demonstrating that 2 people and 2 herds of sheep really can run Congress, albeit not very effectively. Yes I suppose THIS Congress is “most prolific” at many insignificant and undesirable behaviors! But, that’s not what America needs. We need a competent and effective Congress with members willing to set aside political differences long enough to work toward resolving the most important issue facing America in decades–ECONOMIC RECOVERY.

  • SisterBB 10/04/2010 7:23am

    Deborah you are onto something there. Personally I didn’t vote to live in a plutocracy. And we have been sliding in that direction like a snowball into H-E-Double Toothpicks since ENRON. Wake Up House and Senate, the people are watching, on the left and right and we can smell the stink of revolving door politics.

  • molinechuck 10/04/2010 9:50am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    The most important issue facing humanity right now? I doubt it. Global warming, climate change, or whatever it is called now is a hoax based upon fraudulant research. Best Congress does not throw more taxpayer money away.

  • Comm_reply
    justamick 10/04/2010 10:13am

    I think that you should prove how the research is fraudulent by citing sources.

    On the flip side, all research done to disprove climate change as been backed by major oil moguls… Kinda points to the credibility of the research doesn’t it?

  • Comm_reply
    beenblue 10/04/2010 5:27pm

    Well spoken, and informed. My father used to say that mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.

  • justamick 10/04/2010 10:14am

    Congress passing measures to attack climate change would be moot without there being measures to stop the LARGEST polluter in the WORLD. That would be China. India comes in at third place. The bills that Congress passes about climate change will do nothing to stop them. You want to work on climate change? Find a way to bring the largest polluter in the world in line with the international community.

  • Abaratarrr 10/04/2010 5:20pm

    “But on the most important issue facing humanity right now, they never even got so far as introducing a viable bill in the all-important upper chamber.”

    seriously, opencongress believes that the most important issue facing humanity

  • travelsmile 10/06/2010 9:51am

    This Congress has been most prolific at demonstrating that 2 people and 2 herds of sheep really can run Congress, albeit not very effectively. Yes I suppose THIS Congress is “most prolific” at many insignificant and undesirable behaviors! But, that’s not what America needs

  • Spam Comment

Due to the archiving of this blog, comment posting has been disabled.