Gore Bails on Pelosi and House Dems on Cap and Trade Energy Tax

Pelosi needs victory on climate change, but undecideds, and even the ex-VP, are cooling their heels.

By + More

By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Politico is reporting that former Vice President Al Gore "cancelled plans to fly to Washington for a news conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday" and would, instead, work the phones from Tennessee to lobby undecided members that they should vote for the cap and trade climate bill.

Could it be the Democrats are learning? Could it be they figured out the image of the former vice president, expending energy and emitting carbon by flying in from his large carbon footprint abode in the Volunteer State to the nation's capitol to explain why America needs a cap and trade law to reduce carbon emissions would step on their message?

I doubt it. The rush to get the national energy tax—which is what the cap and trade legislation really is—to the House floor is a big roll of the dice for Pelosi and her leadership. And it is unlikely that Gore would want to be seen, in retrospect, standing next to her if she fails to ensure its passage on Friday. It's her emergency, not his.

But the speaker put on her brave face. "It's a question of what was energy efficient for the vice president," Pelosi said. "We were narrowing the list of the undecideds. We had a great narrowing of the undecideds." It's more than likely Pelosi will get her way—but it will probably be close...close enough to keep it in play if the Senate version differs from what passes in the House.

The target list is long. The ones being circulated Wednesday included Democrats like Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Alabama's Bobby Bright, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Idaho's Walt Minnick, Ohio's Steve Driehaus, and New Mexico's Harry Teague. As well as Republicans like California's Mary Bono Mack, New Jersey's Rod Frelinghuysen, South Carolina's Bob Inglis, Peter King of New York, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Wisconsin's Tom Petri.

This is a big universe, one that either side could mine to great effect in the next general election—something that is no doubt foremost in the minds of the members on the list. None of them wants to be portrayed as a friend of big polluters or an ostrich on global warming; but none of them wants to be the deciding vote for a massive energy tax that hurts an already hurting family budget either. This is the big leagues, and there's a lot riding on this vote for both sides. If the bill goes down, the Republican minority will have scored a major victory that puts a chink in Nancy Pelosi's armor. And if it passes, even by just a few votes, then Pelosi will tighten the reins even further and give Obama a victory he needs very much right now.

  • Check out our political cartoons.
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our new digital magazine.