Republicans have killed the Congressional panel, but it never reported any legislation and primarily served as a publicity vehicles for the environmentalists. GOP conservatives would like to claim credit for global warming’s demise, but this happened during the 111th Congress when Democrats controlled the White House and had super majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill.
Conservatives were staunch opponents of what they called “cap and tax,” but their margin of victory was provided by GOP and Democratic moderates. The slogan became so popular that Democrats deleted references to cap and trade. They started to describe the legislation as a “pollution cap.” Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) deserves credit for delaying the legislation, and the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) was the final nail in its coffin.
Few people would have predicted the demise of global warming when Democrats captured Congress in 2006. Over 70% of 2006 voters listed global warming as a serious concern, and over 60% felt that way in 2008. The cap and trade proposal was at the top of the Democratic agenda last year. Two weeks after the November 2008 balloting, President-elect Obama addressed the Global Climate Change Conference:
Few challenges facing America — and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season. . . Too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change.
In January of 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) strongly endorsed the President’s viewpoint and claimed to have the votes for passage. Reid said his top three priorities were the stimulus, health care reform and climate change. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did her part by orchestrating passage of a highly partisan cap and trade bill by a 219 to 212 vote.
The Behind The Scenes Story
One of the last lawmakers to vote was moderate Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE). Everyone knew the count was close, and Castle promised the GOP leadership he would not abandon them if his vote was needed. Castle was a candidate to fill Joe Biden’s (D-DE) Senate vacancy, and expected to face state Attorney General Beau Biden who supported the legislation.
When Castle saw cap and trade had a majority he voted for it. He did not realize Biden would pull out of the race, and was not expecting a significant challenge for the GOP nomination. A year later cap and trade would become a crucial issue in the loss of what was seen as a certain GOP pick-up opportunity.
Scott Brown Changed Everything
Because of the excessive carbon tax, outlook for the House bill was not promising in the Senate. The Majority Leader said 60 votes would be required for passage of the global warming bill, and because of Democratic defections, it could not be done without a handful of Republicans. He said consideration of the legislation would be delayed until there was a report from a bipartisan working group chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham was expected to eventually join Kerry as an original co-sponsor, after the working group had developed a compromise. Graham was able to delay negotiations for over a year, and by that time the Democratic super majority ended with the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). After 14 months of negotiations, Graham finally pulled out of the deal, and Kerry was left without any GOP support.
Because of Senator Brown, cloture to cut off debate was no longer possible. While some conservatives were screaming about Graham’s betrayal and liberal “RINO” Republicans, the end result was that not one GOP Senator backed the House passed legislation or Senator Kerry’s compromise.
Furthermore, Democrats lost the votes of Senators Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Evan Bayh (IN), Kent Conrad (ND), Jay Rockefeller (WV) and appointed Sen. Carte Goodwin (D-WV), who filled the late Robert Byrd’s vacancy. Majority Leader Reid was seven votes short of victory, and cap and trade was indefinitely pulled from the calendar. The most effective lobbyist against the climate change legislation was Senator Rockefeller.
He told the Majority Leader that health care reform cost Democrats a Senate seat in Massachusetts, and passage of cap and trade would do the same thing in West Virginia. After a meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus, the Majority Leader said:
We’re really not at a point where I can determine what I think is the best for the caucus and the country at this stage. We’re still trying to find a Republican or two or three on energy. We haven’t given up on that.
Defeat of the global warming legislation would not have been possible without moderate Senators such as Evan Bayh (D-IN). They opposed the Kerry bill because of its reduction in energy consumption which would impede America’s economic growth.
In a major change from 2006, there was also widespread opposition to global warming in the scientific community. Bayh specifically mentioned this in announcing his opposition. He said the situation was now far different because over 30,000 scientists had signed a petition urging the United States to reject the Kyoto climate change agreement. Their joint letter stated:
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.