Posted under Express 101
Time for Dr Obama to Take Nation’s Temperature on Climate Change?
How does the triumphant health reform vote affect Obama’s future efforts? Was this the high-water mark or will it lead to success on other fronts, like energy and climate change? Some Democratic strategists hope so, while others, according to the International Oil Daily, say it may dampen the chances of achieving similarly broad legislation on energy and the environment by prompting Republicans to withhold their cooperation.
Report from Chicago Breaking News (22 March 2010):
For more than a year, the White House had one overriding rule: As long as health care was alive, no other substantial issue was to be pushed harder — nothing that might distract from what President Barack Obama saw as Exhibit A for “Change you can believe in.”
That strategy plunged the White House into one of the most grueling legislative battles in modern memory. The fight was so tough and went on so long that more than once along the way, a senior presidential aide recalled last week, he had to stop, close his eyes and remind himself, “breathe, breathe.”
But late Sunday night, Obama got his historic victory. Now he could stand before a skeptical public and say he had broken a Washington stalemate dating over half a century. He and the Democratic Party’s leaders on Capitol Hill had demonstrated they could hammer out agreements on some of the nation’s most complex and politically explosive issues.
And they did it without the filibuster-proof Senate majority they’d long counted on.
That left just one question: Was this the high-water mark for Obama? Was it a victory that left his army too exhausted to fight again? Or was it a triumph that opened the way to success on other fronts — energy, climate change, immigration, tightening regulation of the financial system?
At least some Democratic strategists see a new opportunity, now that the congressional haggling is over.
“The American people got too close a look at how Congress actually legislates and that’s an ugly thing,” said Jim Jordan, a Democratic campaign strategist. “Once the legislative process is done, the debate turns to what’s in the bill and what’s in the bill is, by and large, extremely popular with the public.”
Yet Obama suffered a 20 percentage point drop in the polls as the health care legislation played out against a background of massive unemployment, a collapsed housing market and the aftermath of a recession the likes of which many of today’s voters had never seen.
Nor is the economy likely to be fully restored by the fall elections, making it the first priority of the White House and congressional Democrats in coming months.
Almost certainly, that means putting off energy, climate change, immigration and other issues for at least a little longer.
If passage of the health care overhaul won’t necessarily reset the Obama presidency, the alternative was almost certain catastrophe — a point the president made in his final rounds of coaxing Democratic lawmakers to support the bill.
Repeatedly during the weeks after Republican Scott Brown won the late Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat and stripped the Democrats of their 60-vote super majority, Obama was urged to back off and try for a scaled-back version of health care.
But Obama, while toying with the idea at least once, decided not to pull back.
“This is high-stakes poker in which the White House has doubled down on its strategy after the Massachusetts election,” Mark Penn, a strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, said of the decision.
Had Obama gambled and lost, he would have suffered more than a humiliating defeat. He would have raised questions about both his judgment and executive skill. He had stocked the White House with former congressional aides just for this purpose — to pass major legislation that had eluded past Democratic presidents.
In purely historical terms, he seems to stand vindicated.
“This has been 100 years in the making,” said Harold Ickes, who was part of the unsuccessful effort to pass a health care overhaul under former President Bill Clinton. “History is replete with false starts on this. It’s an enormous achievement to get it done.”
But as Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., said Sunday, the old obstacles to other legislative goals won’t disappear now.
“Everything else is a very heavy lift,” Sherman said.
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, a moderate Republican and senior member of the energy committee, said the deadlock over energy policy and related issues will persist.
“I think it will be very difficult even to do a budget,” he said.
Republicans have a vested interest in portraying health care as a Pyrrhic victory. From the beginning, GOP strategists saw the health care debate as a chance to cripple Obama’s presidency. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., cast the stakes in military terms, predicting that a defeat on health care would be Obama’s Waterloo.
“He articulated what many others were thinking,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “They thought that if they could defeat the president on this they could defeat him on anything.”
Republicans still believe that’s true.
“Their choice was to pass bad legislation or prove they’re incapable of governing,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who works closely with the party’s congressional leadership.
Sunday night, Obama and congressional Democrats proved they could win a tough battle. Now, the challenge is to survive the victory.
Bill Murray, Washington in International Oil Daily (23 March 2010):
The passage of comprehensive health care legislation in the US House of Representatives Sunday may dampen the chances of achieving similarly broad legislation on energy and the environment by prompting Republicans to withhold their cooperation.
President Obama was expected to sign the 10-year, $938 billion health bill on Tuesday. The legislation will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured people and ban insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The Senate passed its version of the health bill in late December and the House passed its measure after an agreement was reached that some elements of the legislation will be returned to the Senate for a “reconciliation” vote.
However, the health bill — which was preceded by a long and divisive national debate — was passed by the House without a single Republican vote. And now Senate Republicans have threatened to unite to block further legislative action until mid-term elections are held in November.
“If they do this, (reconciliation on health care) it’s going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve, this year, or thereafter,” South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told ABC News earlier this month.
Graham’s comments are important, because he has been part of a “tripartisan” effort to write compromise legislation that would cap carbon emissions by coal-burning utilities and potentially expand offshore oil and gas drilling. In any event, publication of a bill is not expected until mid-April.
A provisional summary of the compromise being put together by Graham, Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. Joe Lierman (I-Connecticut) shows discussion of a price floor for carbon of $10 a ton and a ceiling at $30 a ton.
Any published bill would have to go through six to eight weeks of economic modeling by the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency, making late-May the earliest that a bill could be debated either in committee or on the Senate floor.
“Temporary Republican opposition could delay negotiations and might diminish odds that any climate or energy-only bill passes at all,” political analyst Kevin Book of Clearview Energy Partners said in a note to clients published Monday.
This would leave only the passage of “legislation to preempt or delay EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources the most probable outcome, particularly if Republicans do not relent until late into the second quarter of 2010,” Book wrote.
However, refusal by the Republicans to play ball may not be viewed as a negative by several Senate Democrats from energy-producing states who are up for re-election in November.
Analysts say it is possible that many Senators do not want to make themselves even more vulnerable by passing comprehensive energy legislation, in addition to the highly controversial health care plan.
The climate change measures being considered in the Senate are quite different from the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House of Representatives in June 2009. The House bill created a carbon market that would have covered 85% of all emissions in the US and would have increased energy prices for the average household by more than $100 a year.