Saturday, June 07, 2008

Maybe a two-vote shift will get us climate legislation next year

So the Lieberman-Warner bill failed to pass the Senate, with 48 votes in favor and 36 against. The bill needed 60 votes because Republicans were filibustering, and at first glance, the idea that climate legislation will pick up twelve votes next year seems depressingly unlikely.

Maybe not. From the link, the Dems are saying that six absent senators favored the bill. Elsewhere I've read that four of bill opponents were Democrats. If in 2009, a Democratic President and the full weight of the Democratic Party were brought to bear on those four, telling them to vote however they want on the final bill but that they must vote for cloture to end the filibuster, I think they could come around. That leaves two other votes that need to switch, either from Republicans who come in from the cold or get replaced. Could happen.

Of course, this vote-counting is for the inadequate L-W bill, and Obama's far better proposal might encounter more foot-dragging. We'll see.

One good thing about the L-W bill is the trade provision that I'm sure we'll see in future legislation, requiring emission controls from importers of countries that don't control emissions on national levels. First, if the US doesn't get its act together, this helps legitimize other countries requiring this from our exporters. Second, it supports the idea I've prattled on endlessly about trade agreements being the best enforcement mechanism on the international level for climate regulation. Getting to 60 votes in the Senate to beat a filibuster is hard enough, and a treaty needs 67 votes. Trade agreements, by contrast, need 60 votes for fast-track authority before they're negotiated, then the President negotiates them and submits them to Congress for up-or-down vote with no filibuster.

I think the best result would be a treaty with targets but no enforcement mechanisms - that might get through the Senate - and then enforcement comes through a trade agreement.

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