Never let it be said that I ignore it when other liberals say really stupid things.
This week, Harry Reid announced that the failure to break a unanimous Republican filibuster means that there will be no comprehensive climate change and clean energy bill during this session of congress, which likely means that the Obama Administration will be unable to pass one in their first term. This in spite of the fact that the CBO concluded that the bill would help reduce budget deficits and various regulations were relaxed and sectors of the economy were exempted from regulation altogether to entice at least one Republican to join with the majority.
Understandably, many progressive and climate bloggers are angry at this failure to get even a modest bill passed in the Senate, even after a decent bill passed in the House of Representatives. This doesn't give anyone an excuse though to jump out half-cocked and say things that flat out aren't true. Yesterday, Grist columnist David Roberts took to his blog to assign blame and map out where we should go from here.
There's much about the post that I agree with. Progressives need to shake this off and go about protecting the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act from legislative tinkering. If Republicans don't want to create a cap-and-trade system (which I will again point out is an idea that was born during the Reagan and HW Bush Administrations) for regulating GHG's, than they by their actions have chosen to leave it in the hands of the Obama Administration to implement a Command-and-Control plan for this exact purpose. We also agree that the focus legislatively should be, from this point forward, to boost the support for Renewable Energy Systems and the Home Star Initiative.
But then he sits on a whoopie cushion.
"We don't have 60 votes" is bull: Every cowardly senator repeats it like a talisman to ward off the terrible threat of having to act: "We don't have the votes." Two things to say about that. First, of course you don't have votes for something this controversial before you go to the floor and force the issue. Pelosi didn't have the votes before she took the House bill to the floor. She got the votes by twisting arms and making deals. She forced the issue. That was the only way the Senate vote could ever work -- if the bill was put on the floor, the issue was forced, and Dems united in daring the GOP to vote against addressing the oil spill. There's no guarantee that would have worked, but at least it would have been a political rallying point. It would have put senators on record. And it's not like the wimpy avoidance strategy is producing better results.
Second, senators need to stop talking about "60 votes" as though it's in the Constitution that the U.S. Senate -- unlike every other legislative body on the planet -- has a supermajority requirement. It's not in the Constitution. It's an accident, an informal rule that Republicans have taken to relentlessly abusing, not to extend debate but simply to degrade the Senate's ability to act. The filibuster is anti-democratic and it is thwarting the country's will. The American people need to be told this and senators who still want their institution to be minimally functional need to start getting angry about it.
*Nancy Pelosi obviously did manage to pass a comprehensive climate change bill many months ago, but Pelosi also had to make a variety of deals and concessions tojust barely pass the Waxman/Markey bill. Plus, the House doesn't have the same rules as the Senate bill with regards to filibusters.
* The American Power Act can be put on the floor all you want, but it will be filibustered, and the only thing that will accomplished is to reward those obstructing Republicans with a public victory, because their base doesn't believe that global warming is a scientific reality.
* Sixty votes to invoke cloture may not be in the Constitution, but the Constitution gives the Senate the ability to write its own rules under Article 1 section 5, and requires a two-thirds majority vote to change those rules. The only part of the Senate filibuster that is informal is the level of discretion that the minority party uses in employing it. For the last 4 years, the minority party has exercised none at all.
These might feel like minor quibbles, but they really are important. If you and your supporters and activists don't understand the rules that the Senate has to play by, then you end up with a bunch of frustrated activists who falsely believe that both parties are exactly the same when things fall apart. People haven't been talking about "the 60 vote threshold" since January 2009 just for the hell of it.
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