In yet another reminder that the administration will have a tougher time pursuing cap-and-trade legislation than ObamaCare, its principal author for the latter in the Senate announced yesterday that he has “serious reservations” about the former, at least in its current form. Max Baucus (D-MT), fresh off of handing Harry Reid his summary on overhauling the American health-care system, says that the cap-and-trade bill proposed by John Kerry and Barbara Boxer attempts to do too much at once:
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said today that he has “serious reservations” about a major global warming bill and warned fellow Democrats to water down the measure in hopes of getting it through the Senate.
Speaking at the start of an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing where he is the second highest-ranking member, the Montana Democrat said he wanted to weaken the bill’s 2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions — now 20 percent below 2005 levels. He did not name a specific midterm target for the heat-trapping gases, instead telling reporters he hoped for “some modification.” …
Baucus chaired the environment committee from 1993 until 1995, and his centrist voice carries tremendous weight in the party’s leadership ranks. But Democrats also have a 12-7 majority on the EPW Committee, and his vote likely won’t be necessary as Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) looks to move the bill in the coming weeks.
Instead, Boxer and Democrats face the critical question of whether they should wait to deal with Baucus later in the negotiations, as his concerns foreshadow a tough fight to win the 60 votes needed to pass a comprehensive bill.
Committees are not the problem for Democrats in the Senate. They have to win cloture votes, and the structure of the bill makes it almost impossible for them to do so. In fact, with the impact that cap-and-trade will have on the economies of the Rust Belt, they may not even get a majority once they get past cloture.
Baucus isn’t even their biggest worry in terms of winning a cloture vote. Senators like Evan Bayh, Jay Rockefeller, Robert Byrd, Robert Casey, and others from coal states won’t stand a chance of re-election when they kneecap their coal producers back home. Even a dyed-in-the-wool progressive like Russ Feingold has objected to the distribution of emissions credits that obviously favors the coastal states over those in the interior.
However, Baucus’ early objections present a formidable political problem for Boxer and Kerry. They need to sell their plan as a moderate version of Waxman-Markey, which the House passed in a hurry in July. If Baucus considers it too radical, it will have everyone else’s antennae up and create a lot more scrutiny for Boxer-Kerry. After the fight over health care, Baucus knows exactly what that means, which makes his opening gambit a little more interesting.