Climate Changed: Long odds on energy bill, as incumbent heat rises

By Jonathan Blakely

May 12, 2010 7:42am

By Rick Klein: Did you save room for any more legislative sausage? This is of a particularly healthy variety, sure. But the long-awaited (promised since long before there was a Supreme Court vacancy) Senate climate bill is appearing on a crowded menu, with lots of junk all around — and a nagging suspicion among some of the patrons that they have to leave their seats soon. The Kerry-Lieberman energy and climate-change bill — missing, of course, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s name and support — arrives Wednesday on Capitol Hill at either the exactly wrong or the perfectly right time. Energy issues have been oozing into the national spotlight in an oily, gassy mix on the Gulf Coast. Blame games don’t solve energy crises. But even aside from the overcrowded agenda, the crisis on the Gulf may have taken a key negotiating piece President Obama placed on the table — a significant expansion of offshore oil drilling — right back off. It’s not that the problem isn’t recognized — it’s that the political will to do something serious to address the issues raised isn’t looking like a renewable resource. “The biggest challenge will be selling the notion that the bill has any chance of passage,” Tribune Co.’s Jim Tankersley reports. “Partisan polarization has intensified and the politics of energy were muddled further by the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Though Kerry and Lieberman added new curbs on drilling — including allowing states to block their neighbors' plans to drill offshore – the legislation does not ban new drilling altogether.” A post-BP modification: “The energy and climate bill Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) will unveil Wednesday will give states the right to veto offshore oil drilling in a neighboring state,” The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports. “Any state will be allowed to opt out of drilling that would occur in waters within 75 miles of its shore.” Are environmental groups going to stay on board for this? “The measure would block state cap-and-trade programs and creates new limits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases,” per The Hill’s Jim Snyder and Ben Geman. Build your own momentum: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has essentially told Kerry and Lieberman to introduce their bill now so Reid can gauge the support in the Democratic caucus for moving forward. The plan is to let the bill marinate for a few weeks and make a decision after Memorial Day on whether to proceed,” Roll Call’s Emily Pierce writes. Choose your own metaphor: “Obviously these are very turbulent political times and we’re going to have to navigate very rough waters,” Kerry told The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser. (Flashback to January: “You cannot pass a bill without a coalition of all of these senators,” Kerry said.) Of that other climate — the statement from Sen. Graham, R-S.C.: “We should move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance at success. Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment.” Yes, this climate: There will be no 15th term for Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., who became the first House incumbent of 2010 to fall on Tuesday, ousted in a primary campaign aimed against Washington.  ”For the first time in more than 40 years, there won't be a Mollohan representing West Virginia in the U.S. House when Congress convenes next year,” Joselyn King writes in the Wheeling News-Register. “[Mike] Oliverio's campaign message has been a simple one – to restore integrity to Congress and the 1st District seat. Billing himself as a ‘conservative Democrat,’ Oliverio campaigned against Mollohan from the right. … Mollohan made a last-second decision against cap and trade last year, but voted in favor of health care reform.” “Mollohan hadn't faced a serious primary fight in more than a decade and was seen in some circles as unbeatable, given that the state's 1st Congressional District seat had been in his family since 1968,” Chris Cillizza writes in The Washington Post. “But state Sen. Mike Oliverio ran hard against Mollohan's entrenched-incumbent status and made much of the lingering whiff of ethics problems that dogged the congressman for years.” “Mollohan’s decisive loss — a stunning rebuke for a veteran appropriator who has held his seat for nearly three decades — comes just days after Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his bid for renomination,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt writes. NRCC memo from late Tusday: “Tonight, 27-year incumbent Rep. Alan Mollohan became the first member of the U.S. House to be defeated in 2010. Soiled by an FBI ethics investigation, Mollohan suffered a 12-point defeat in his own primary to state Sen. Mike Oliverio. But his fortunes may be short-lived after West Virginians discover his refusal to oppose Obamacare and his history of voting to raise taxes.” Counters a Democratic strategist: “Alan Mollohan lost because he didn’t believe he could be beat. As a result, he did not do his work (fundraising or campaigning), he failed to define himself and left ethics questions unanswered.” And does anyone think we’re done now? Line up, Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa.: “The anti-establishment political tide that ousted a three-term GOP senator in Utah has spread well beyond the tea party. It toppled a longtime Democratic congressman from West Virginia on Tuesday, and several White House-favored lawmakers elsewhere are confronting liberal voters who don't want party elites telling them what to do,” the AP’s Charles Babington writes. “In Pennsylvania, many Democratic voters seem unmoved by President Barack Obama's pleas to embrace former Republican Arlen Specter in next Tuesday's Senate primary.” “One year after leaving the Republican Party in the face of crumbling support, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is now fighting to avert rejection — and presumably the end of his career — at the hands of Democrats,” Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times. “And while the White House has backed Mr. Specter in the primary, making good on a pledge made when he switched parties just over a year ago, Mr. Obama seems unlikely to make a campaign visit for Mr. Specter before the primary, Democrats said. They said the White House is not eager to be embarrassed by having the president make a last-minute visit on behalf of a candidate who goes on to lose, as happened in the Massachusetts Senate and New Jersey governor’s races.” Confirming the now-obvious: “Six days before Tuesday's primary, Sen. Arlen Specter and U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak are neck-and-neck for the Democratic Senate nomination, according to a new Daily News/Franklin & Marshall poll,” Emily Schultheis writes in the Philadelphia Daily News. “Sestak has a slight lead over Specter among likely voters, 38 percent to 36 percent, but a full quarter of voters remain undecided. The poll, conducted May 3-9, contrasts starkly with March's poll in which more than two-thirds of voters didn't even know Sestak's name.” Q numbers out Wednesday: “U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak continues his stretch run in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate primary and now trails incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter by a too-close-to-call 44 – 42 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.” And he did it again: Specter on Tuesday thanked the “Allegheny County Republicans” for their support. Um, twice: “The first time Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) slipped up here Tuesday night at the Allegheny County Democratic Committee’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, most in the audience pretended not to notice,” per Politico’s Jonathan Martin. “But at the end of his remarks when Specter again thanked the ‘the Allegheny County Republicans’ for their endorsement, many couldn’t help but laugh nervously and shoot did-he-really-just-say-that looks at each other.” On the Hill Wednesday: Courtesy call time. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Her dance card includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, plus senators Leahy, Sessions, Durbin, Hatch, Kohl, and Feinstein. Watching the left… “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged President Bill Clinton to take centrist stances in several battles over issues like abortion and family leave when other administration officials or allies were pressing for a more aggressively liberal approach, according to documents at the Clinton Presidential Library,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports. “Clinton often appears to have sided with Kagan’s approach. However, the documents could underscore concerns among some liberal activists that Kagan was an advocate of the policy triangulation of the Clinton White House and thus might not be a reliably liberal vote on the court,” Gerstein writes. “A 1998 memo shows that Kagan was among advisers encouraging Clinton to deny Medicare funding for abortions in cases of rape or incest – in part to avoid a messy battle with Republicans.” And: “The White House rushed Tuesday to allay concerns raised by some civil rights groups about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and the hiring record of Harvard Law School when she was dean,” The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson and Hamil R. Harris report. “Some black activists were already dismayed that no African American woman has reached President Obama's short list in two searches. The selection of Kagan, the U.S. solicitor general, served to irritate them further, as they described her tenure at Harvard — which administration officials highlight as evidence of her practicality and her ability to work across ideological lines — as one lacking in racial inclusion.” Bigger picture — for now: “Considering what an Obama Supreme Court nominee could face in a bitterly divided Washington, the White House must surely be happy: Kagan's confirmation process is off to a relatively sleepy start. Republicans didn't even blink at the timeline,” Time’s Jay Newton-Small reports. “She's a very intelligent, interesting person and I suspect she'll do just fine,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on ABC News/Washington Post’s “Top Line” Tuesday. But on the issue of military recruiters at Harvard Law: “I have to say that's something that bothers me quite a bit.” At the White House Wednesday: It’s Karzai day, with a 10:15 am ET meeting between President Obama and his Afghan counterpart, then an 11:15 am ET joint press conference. “The Obama Administration is going to great lengths this week to smooth over relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai — or at least present an image of a partnership that has improved after weeks of heightened tensions,” ABC’s Karen Travers and Kirit Radia report. “Karzai arrived in Washington on Monday for a four-day visit that includes a full agenda of meetings between U.S. and Afghan military, diplomatic and legislative officials, all aimed at ratcheting down tensions between the two governments.” “Despite the public mending of fences, behind closed doors the Obama administration is expected to push Karzai and his government to do more to combat corruption and improve governance outside the capital.” “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Tuesday that U.S. relations with Afghanistan are strained but assured Karzai that the U.S. will stand behind his country long after the last American soldier is gone,” the AP’s Robert Burns and Matthew Lee report. “And she pointedly said at an evening reception at the State Department, with Karzai at her side, that the enormous sums of military and humanitarian assistance offered to Afghanistan by a wide range of nations and international organizations are a ‘great vote of confidence in you’ — and in his government.” Health care spending watch — and how long before this is a huge story? “President Barack Obama's new health care law could potentially add at least $115 billion more to government health care spending over the next 10 years, congressional budget referees said Tuesday,” Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes for the AP. “If Congress approves all the additional spending called for in the legislation, it would push the ten-year cost of the overhaul above $1 trillion — an unofficial limit the Obama administration set early on.” New from the House GOP Wednesday: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and his Economic Recovery Working Group are launching “YouCut.” Every week, five proposed spending cuts will be posted online — and people will be invited to vote for their favorites. House Republicans will press for floor votes on the winners. Says a GOP aide: “People have to power to actually make Congress vote to save by utilizing the power of technology.”
2012 tastes: “We need to be in the arena,” Sen. John Thune, D-S.D., told the annual gathering of the Republican National Committee Tuesday. ABC’s David Chalian: “When asked if his comments about getting ‘in the arena’ were a reference to his possible 2012 White House run, a grinning Thune said he wasn’t speaking personally, but instead encouraging others to get engaged in the 2010 elections.” Tampa’s big day? “Members of the Republican National Committee will huddle today at a hotel in suburban Washington, D.C., area to discuss bids for the next convention and make a recommendation for a host city,” Christian M. Wade reports in the Tampa Tribune. “Here in Tampa, leaders of the city's host committee — comprised of local Republicans, business and commerce leaders – will gather at the offices of Tampa Bay & Company in downtown, anxiously waiting for an afternoon phone call from the RNC's site selection committee. The call, followed by a news briefing, is expected to come around 2:30 p.m.” Plaudits for T-Paw, from The Wall Street Journal editorial board: “Earlier this week Democrats who control both legislative houses [in Minnesota] passed a three-year $1 billion income tax increase. … Yesterday Mr. Pawlenty vetoed this tax foolishness, as he has three previous tax hikes as Governor. The tax increase was targeted at the rich, but it applied to individuals with an income of $113,100 for singles and $200,000 for joint filers.” Block out your week — post-midterms: “Sarah Palin's new book has a title, ‘America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag,’ and a release date, Nov. 23, publisher HarperCollins announced Tuesday,” the AP’s Hillel Italie reports. “It will include ‘selections from classic and contemporary readings that have moved her,’ according to HarperCollins, along with ‘the nation's founding documents to great speeches, sermons, letters, literature and poetry, biography, and even some of her favorite songs and movies.’ ” What we won’t know: “The speaking fee headed to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for a scheduled June speech at a California State University was kept secret in order to spare the university from more negative coverage, according to internal emails released by a state lawmaker Tuesday,” ABC’s Matthew Mosk reports. “The decision not to share the fee, despite requests for details from state officials and members of the media, came following a lengthy exchange between CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and Bernie Swain, chairman of the Washington Speakers Bureau, which handles Palin's paid speaking engagements.” Thoughts with Beau: “Beau Biden, the 41-year-old son of Joe Biden, and Delaware's attorney general has suffered a mild stroke, according to a statement issued from the vice president's office,” ABC’s Susan Donaldson James reports. “Beau Biden, the 41-year-old son of Joe Biden, suffered a mild stroke. Biden is being treated by Dr. Timothy Gardner, medical director of the Center for Heart and Vascular Surgery at Christiana Care Health System, who said he likely will have a full recovery.” The Kicker: “I agree with you that the damage is done and the disclosure will just cause another round of newspaper stories.” — California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, in an e-mail, glad to not see Sarah Palin’s speaking fees divulged. “I'm not a television commentator. I'm not as smooth as you guys.” — Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., after thanking the “Allegheny County Republicans” for their support.
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