Evan BayhSen. Evan Bayh

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh will not seek re-election this year, a decision that hands Republicans a prime pickup opportunity in the middle of the country.

“After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned,” Bayh will say.

As I said when Sen. Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced in January he would retire, what’s bad news for the Dems in the longer term could be good news for the climate bill in the short term.

Nate Silver had given Bayh a “Probability of Yes” vote of 46%, but recently, Bayh has been sounding much more squeamish, as in this E&E Daily interview (sub req’d) a few weeks ago:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) urged Obama to scale back his effort on climate.

“I think this is a very difficult time, given the state of the economy,” Bayh said. “And the lack of a firm commitment on the part of other nations. That makes it more difficult. That’s not to say progress can’t be made. If I were advising the president, I would focus on energy security, job creation in the energy space that would have the additional advantage of helping to address carbon emissions but do it an economically friendly way.”

Memo to Bayh: That’s what the bipartisan climate bill does!

In fact, we have firm commitments from just about every major country in the world besides ours (see “Progress from the Copenhagen Accord“).

An energy-only bill doesn’t help address carbon emissions, it would only add to the budget deficit, it would be too small in scale to generate many jobs or compete with our hyper-charged competitors, who aren’t squeamish about making major investments to push clean energy and reduce emissions (see “The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill“).

It’s a sad commentary on moderate Dems that they don’t even have the backbone on — or understanding of — the solution to the central issue of our time that one of the most conservative Republicans does:

Like Dorgan, let’s say for now that Bayh is 50-50 or better to vote for the final bill — and maybe higher for at least cloture. After all, what possible reason could he give to support a filibuster?

Perhaps all of the swing state senators could announce their retirement and then vote sanely — especially those who probably aren’t going to be reelected anyway. Paging Blanche Lincoln!

Finally, what exactly is the point of electing these people if they won’t act on the big issues? As Graham said:

If [the] lesson from health care is let’s not do anything hard, then why don’t we all go home, which might be good for the country by the way.

But if we go home, China won’t …

This is the time, this is the Congress, and this is the moment. So if we retreat and try to just go to the energy-only approach which will never yield the legislative results that I want on energy independence, then we just made the problem worse.

What Congress is going to come up here and do all these hard things?

Who are these people in the future?

Because we constantly count on them.

I don’t know who they are. I’ve yet to find them.

So I guess it falls to me and you.

So let’s do it.

If it wasn’t clear before, it’s pretty much now or never who knows when?

The time to act on a comprehensive bill is now.

For more on Bayh and the climate and clean-energy bill, check out this Grist profile of the senator.