Climate-Change Bill Shows Divison Amongst Democrats
November 11, 2009
Wall Street Journal
By Peter Wallsten & Siobhan Hughes
Divisions among Democrats were on display Thursday in a Senate committee vote approving a climate-change bill.
Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) voted against his own party’s climate-change bill, calling for a scaled-back measure that might win more bipartisan support. Mr. Baucus, a key player in the health-care overhaul debate, said the measure set too ambitious a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, and hadn’t done enough to protect farmers.
Republicans boycotted the 11-1 vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. They said more study needed to be done on the potential harm to the economy from the measure’s cap on emissions, and its requirement that businesses buy permits, which could be traded, to emit carbon dioxide and other gases.
The tensions among Democrats point to the wider debate within the party about how aggressively to push the leading issues on President Barack Obama’s agenda after Tuesday’s election setbacks. Moderate Democrats worry about moving too fast for voters, while liberals say swift action on issues like climate change and health care will remotivate the party’s base.
One of the climate bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), signaled Thursday he was well aware of the political challenges facing his more conservative colleagues. Mr. Kerry has launched discussions with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Connecticut independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman to fashion a compromise measure.
Doubts about cap-and-trade played a role in swinging some previously Democratic coal-mining areas of southwestern Virginia toward Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, the winner in Tuesday’s election. Mr. McDonnell attacked his Democratic opponent, R. Creigh Deeds, as a supporter of Mr. Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plans.
Mr. Deeds argued that he would oppose any tax increases related to energy, but lost by a 2-to-1 margin in coal country.
Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat whose Virginia district encompasses the state’s coal-mining region, said Thursday the election results in his state should have no bearing on the climate issue or the broader Obama agenda.
But he said any climate measure would have to accommodate industry concerns and minimize costs to consumers, and that candidates in conservative districts next year should be armed with those arguments.
Senate Democrats considered vulnerable in the 2010 election include Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and moderates Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.