By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
It was hard for the Democrats to get the 219 votes they needed to pass the "cap and trade" climate change bill in the U.S. House two weeks ago. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, may have rolled the dice but, veteran Capitol Hillers say, it was only the intervention of President Barack Obama and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that managed to close the deal.
They did it by pitching the vote as a referendum, at least internally, on Obama's presidency rather than on the underlying issue. No president likes to lose, least of all on a signature issue like the need to combat climate change, so the White House ratcheted up the stakes and, one presumes, took down names.
Of course the Democrats had help from eight Republicans, who are now on the receiving end of criticism of their own. It's gotten so thick, reports one senior Republican aide, the defecting GOPers are looking to members of the leadership to bail them out. Those requests have, thus far, fallen on deaf ears, the attitude being that those eight Republican "Aye" votes allowed eight potentially vulnerable Democrats to skate on what was, for them, a tough vote.
Now the bill heads to the U.S. Senate, where it may face an even tougher time, according to an analysis of the vote by Phil Kerpen, of the pro-taxpayer group Americans for Prosperity. Having crunched the numbers, Kerpen points out that out of 50 state delegations, 28 voted "No" and only 22 voted "Aye" on the House bill, and that more than a quarter of the votes in came from just two states: New York and California. Additionally:
- A majority of House Democrats in Indiana (3 of 5) and Arkansas (2 of 3) voted "No."
- Both Democrats in the West Virginia delegation (Rahall and Mollohan) voted "No."
- The lone Democrat from Louisiana (Melancon) voted "No."
- The at-large Democrats from North and South Dakota (Pomeroy and Herseth Sandlin) voted "No."
- Out of the remaining 44 states, a majority of the state's total congressional delegation (Democrats plus Republicans) voted "No" in nine that have at least one Democrat in the Senate.
This presents opponents of the House-passed bill with a target rich environment for their lobbying activities. The votes in the House will help provide political cover to those Senate Democrats who choose to take advantage of it—as the American people appear to sour on the costs of the House-passed bill.
According to a Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 U.S. adults taken after the House voted on the cap and trade legislation, 56 percent of Americans say "they are not willing to pay more in taxes and utility costs to generate cleaner energy and to fight global warming." Only 21 percent said they were willing to pay even $100 per year to address those goals. And 52 percent said that it was more important to keep the costs of energy "as low as possible" than to implement a green energy agenda.
As Rasmussen says in his analysis, "It is quite common to find Americans more favorable toward new government proposals until a price tag is attached." And the price tag for the House-passed version of the cap and trade bill is quite hefty.