James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Pelosi, a vision in white — but not green

June 30, 2009

It was Nancy Pelosi’s star turn. (The blindingly white pant suit — Armani? Lovely.) The House speaker giving the closing argument at the end of the cap-and-trade debate that she personally pushed to the floor. The final pitch. “Just remember these four words for what this legislation means: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Let’s vote for jobs.” Then the victorious vote. The greatest achievement of her legislative career. “An extraordinary piece of legislation,” said President Obama.

But what did Pelosi really accomplish, other than momentarily satisfying the powerful Green Lobby?

1) Getting major energy and environmental legislation passed in the House of Representatives isn’t by itself a landmark accomplishment. Been there, done that. In 1993, Democrats passed an energy tax by a vote of 219-213. And doing it again by a similarly razor-thin 219-212 vote — after more than a decade-and-a-half of intense political lobbying, numerous scientific studies, global media attention, Hollywood hectoring and, of course, Al Gore — doesn’t show a whole lot of tangible political progress for green Democrats.
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2) One of Pelosi’s goals also was to get the bill passed without the votes of Democrats who might suffer at the polls in the 2010 midterm elections if they voted for the bill. (Many Democrats suffered for their BTU votes in the 1994 congressional elections when the Republicans won back the House.) Mission accomplished, then. But it speaks poorly for Democratic messaging that cap-and-trade was such a risky vote for so many of the party’s members. It surely would have been better for the current momentum and eventual legislative success of the cap-and-trade bill for it to have passed the House by a wide margin.

3) The same delicate, precise formula that allowed the bill to succeed in that chamber won’t work in the Senate. For instance, more than a quarter of the bill’s House support came from the California and New York delegations whose members account for a fifth of the House. But those two states, notes Jay Cost of RealClearPolitics, make up just four percent of the Senate. A cap-and-trade bill that can’t pass the House by a big margin probably can’t pass the Senate by even a narrow one.
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4) And of course, the Senate, where you need 60 votes to end a filibuster, is a different manner of beast. Yes, Senate Democrats currently have 59 votes and seem likely to get a 60th from Minnesota. But there may already be as many as eight Democrats ready to vote against Pelosi’s creation. And as unemployment continues to rise, climate change may sink further down the list of American voters’ priorities and that of centrist senators.

5) Then there was that final pitch. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. A sign of desperation, really, since the traditional economic argument for dealing with climate change has never been that it was inherently pro-economic growth or a job creator. Rather, the intellectually honest argument is that the economic costs of climate legislation would be less than the impact of doing nothing and letting carbon emissions skyrocket. But cap-and-trade is not a free lunch, and the Pelosi Democrats and eight Pelosi Republicans shouldn’t suggest it is.

Bottom line: President Obama surely would love to have a signed bill in his pocket by the time he wings his way to the global climate conference in Copenhagen next December. But rather than passing cap-and-trade, it is more likely that the Senate will have either voted it down by then, or not voted on it at all. (Recall that the 1993 B.T.U. bill never made it to a vote.) By then, that simple carbon tax-payroll tax swap some conservatives (and Gore) keep touting might start looking awfully inviting to Pelosi.  But hey, she sure did look great in that pant suit.

Comments

Has anyone ever done background research on who will be profiting from cap and trade?

I have read snippets that Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi they have huge investments in Green Companies.

I understand the need for Cap but the TRADE part is utter Bull! The big countries such as China, India and Africa
is not going to pass such a bill.

In the 2 years that England passed the cap-and-trade agreement prices per “ton” of carbon went from $10 to
$38 and that was only in 2 years.

The cap-and-trade bill should die in the senate!

Posted by FidFed | Report as abusive
 

Nancy Pelosi makes me nauseous, can we have term limits please or can she step down? Anyway cap and trade is crap and this country is sinking further into the abyss.

 

It’s apparent that the people of her state and the representative in Washington think she’s wonderful, or they wouldn’t have elected her. It’s also apparent that all of those people are crazy. She needs to go away.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive
 

Nancy Pelosi, white, green, or purple, must go…So must her radical agenda. Please, San Francisco, find someone else. Also, America, please vote these clowns out of office.

Posted by Happy to be Conservative | Report as abusive
 

Jobs, maybe, for GE and Jeld Wen. Supposedly there’s a provision in the bill that, before a house can be sold, an energy inspector has to pass inspection on the house, and the seller will be required to replace old appliances and single paned windows before he’ll be allowed to sell the house.

Posted by Gail | Report as abusive
 

Hey, whatever happened with that whole CIA thing? Pelosi said they lie to Congress all the time, right? Has anybody there been fired for it?

 

“Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs”

For all the money it takes to subsidize one so called “green” job we could probably fill 2-3 positions is some already other existing job market. Who knows maybe the other market might even involve something that people actually need and/or want.

Posted by Josh Reiter | Report as abusive
 

This bill based on a complete hoax which has been swallowed hook, line & sinker by the idealistic leftist
socials must be killed in the senate and the house voters
who supported it must pay a price in the 2010 elections

Posted by spawn44 | Report as abusive
 

Nancy D’allesandro Pelosi – mafia princess extraordinaire — should be more appropriately be wearing a straight jscket – on her liberal elite guilt trips, her journeys around that vacuous mind of hers, and her hot air balloon trips to unrelenting and unending deficits.

Posted by Eleni | Report as abusive
 

“Nancy Pelosi makes me nauseous, can we have term limits please or can she step down?”

Yes we can have term limits! Support law professor Randy Barnett’s initiative to amend the constitution for federalism. Google “federalism amendment” and you’ll find the website for the bill. Good luck!

Posted by willis | Report as abusive
 

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