Waxman-Markey passed the House. Was it the right thing to do? What's the outlook from here? Here are a few views from around the web.
The concerns about measuring and enforcing offsets are genuine (and increased because of Waxman-Markey’s reliance on USDA to do the job.) But those problems aren’t insurmountable either. Instead of complaining about reliance on offsets or the inclusion of USDA, we need to think about how to improve the offset program.
When you draw intersecting curves of “what needs to be done” and “what can realistically be done,” Waxman has time and again put himself at the intersection, and I think it involves a fair amount of hubris to think that you know better than him what the best feasible legislative outcome is.
That said, there’s really no getting around the fact that the best feasible legislative outcome isn’t good enough according to the climate science. What we’re left with is essentially the hope for an iterative process—a flawed bill that makes progress helps spur a productive meeting in Copenhagen helps spur some kind of bilateral deal with China which helps create the conditions for further domestic legislation. I think this is the best idea anyone has, but it’s a pretty dicey proposition.
I want to congratulate the Peterson amendment for the positive things it does do—consider numerous progressive agricultural practices as part of a comprehensive climate bill. I recognize just how powerful that is and I certainly do not want to underplay such inclusions. Progressive farmers absolutely must play a role in the climate change debate and mitigation strategies—no doubt. But to create an amendment that does so and then turns right around and grandfathers in questionable biofuels, pushes aside science and doesn’t include other government agencies in its GHG Advisory committee is counterproductive to the point that I have to wonder how effective the amendment will be in achieving the overall goal of the Waxman-Markey bill.
So, how does this bill pass the 60-vote Senate with such a narrow margin in the House? Well, maybe -- probably? -- it won't. But the Senate will be voting on a somewhat different bill, at a somewhat different time in the legislative calendar, and its members have somewhat different prerogatives. Fewer of them are under re-election pressure. And Obama -- wisely, I think -- has conserved a lot of his political muscle for the Senate fight. Then again, who knows how much political muscle he'll have left depending on how health care and the economy go.
Since President Obama is likely to sign the bill with great fanfare, what will the public take away from this? Will they see it as a “win”—that the problem is solved? If so, what will that mean for pushing for the needed steps later? How will the public be mobilized to push their Representatives when the official and media message is that this is “landmark” legislation?
And Ted Glick says Obama needs to be pressing publicly for a strong bill from the start, not just pushing for votes for a weakened one at the last minute.