Obama, Reid Don't Have 60 Senate Votes for Global Warming "Cap and Trade" Bill

It's likely that the Senate will produce different legislation than the House, if it passes anything.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The House-passed Waxman-Markey global anti-climate change bill is an obvious job killer. So much so that, as written here previously, it authorizes (but doesn't appropriate) more than $4 billion to pay laid-off workers in the energy sector up to 70 percent of their weekly salary for a period of three years if their jobs go away because of the carbon caps. At the same time, the United States—rather than being congratulated for getting on the bandwagon after eight years of George W. Bush's insistence that America and the rest of the world solve the problem by developing new technologies and in ways that each country should determine for itself—is being hammered by the rest of the industrialized world.

As summarized Thursday by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, on its "Morning Bell" blog, the New York Times reports that "The world's biggest developing nations, led by China and India," are refusing to commit to specific goals to reduce greenhouse gases by 2050. In fact, India's Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, told Bloomberg that "India will not accept any emission-reduction target—period." To emphasize the point, Ramesh said: "This is a non-negotiable stand."

So much for the president's global charm offensive; without China and India on board, any effort to limit global greenhouse gas emissions only ends up hurting the U.S. economy without doing anything about the problem as the White House and supporters of the Waxman-Markey approach define it. But the really bad news for the White House is the fire the pending cap-and-trade legislation is drawing here at home.

Even with 60 votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada may find himself hard pressed to stop a filibuster of the House-passed version of the bill—because the reality is Reid doesn't have 60 votes for anything.

"We need to be a leader in the world but we don't want to be a sucker," Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told a radio talk show Tuesday. An early convert to the Obama presidential effort, McCaskill isn't sold on the approach being backed by the White House. "And if we go too far with this," she warned, "all we're going to do is chase more jobs to China and India, where they've been putting up coal-fired plants every 10 minutes."

Another emerging problem for the White House is former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia. The Wheeling, W. Va., News-Register reported Wednesday that the Democrat issued a statement explaining in strong terms that he cannot support the House-passed version of the bill.

Unlike the anti-coal approach taken by the House, Byrd said he continues to believe "clean coal can be a 'green' energy. Those of us who understand coal's great potential in our quest for energy independence must continue to work diligently in shaping a climate bill that will ensure access to affordable energy for West Virginians. I remain bullish about the future of coal, and am so very proud of the miners who labor and toil in the coalfields of West Virginia." Meaning the House bill is going to kill jobs in my state—and if we can't fix it, it's going nowhere.

Indeed, the Senate's "coal bloc," which also includes West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, and Virginia Democrats Mark Warner and Jim Webb, is a significant threat to the bill's final passage. As each day passes, it is looking more and more likely that the Senate will produce legislation significantly different from what the House passed, if it passes anything. That means more trouble ahead for congressional Democrats and for the White House, since it will be difficult to come up with a bill that can satisfy the demands of liberal pressure groups like MoveOn.org and the Sierra Club while at the same time producing something that anti-coal liberal Rep. Henry Waxman of California and the coal-friendly Byrd can both vote for on final passage.

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