Many feigned regret, but ultimately the pork pulled them in
I’ve written about negative reactions to the energy bill from mainstream green groups, the Apollo Alliance, newspaper editorial boards, and libertarians. I’m sure I could find more — denunciations of the special-interest-giveaway fest are thick on the ground.
What about the converse, though: Who is reacting positively to this bill? Who will defend it?
The industries that directly benefit from the manifold subsidies and tax breaks, of course (see, e.g., the Nuclear Energy Institute). And the majority Republicans, who receive copious contributions from those industries and who will no doubt receive credit for "getting things done" (see, e.g., Domenici). But who else?
Well, how about that other party … what’s the name again? Demo-something?
Why did enough Dems support this bill to get it through? And are they happy about it? I investigate.
Right off the bat, heartbreak: Barack Obama of Illinois voted for this turkey. Why? Read between the lines of his press release and it’s pretty clear: Subsidies for ethanol and clean coal. Of course, he voted Yea "reluctantly," so it’s not like he was happily supporting bad policy in exchange for goodies for his state. (Same story with Durbin.)
Jay Rockefeller in West Virginia? Clean coal. Tim Johnson of South Dakota? Ethanol. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota? Ethanol. Evan Bayh of Indiana? Ethanol. Oh, and cleaner school buses. And every statement contains some variation of Obama’s "reluctantly" — "this bill doesn’t go far enough," "it’s just a first step," "we missed a big chance." Great.
Kent Conrad of North Dakota? Clean coal and ethanol. Note the language: "This bill takes steps toward greater energy independence for the United States and lays the groundwork for a plan that promotes substantial investment in North Dakota’s energy sector.” Half of that statement is horsepoop. Can you guess which?
Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan? Tax credits for "alternative fuel" cars that "will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help the Big Three create jobs with these new emerging technologies." Half of that statement is bull hockey. Guess which.
Mary Landrieu is not bashful: "Passed! Energy Bill Includes $1 Billion For Louisiana, Other Coastal States," her homepage screams. The press release offers more in the same vein, noting of the $1 billion to be divided between six coastal states that each state will "be allocated a fair share based on the oil and gas production off its coast, with Louisiana standing to receive a particularly fair 54 percent, or $135 million per year." Hm, federal largesse allocated based on oil and gas production off the coast. I’m sure that won’t create any perverse incentives.
Senate Energy Committee chair Bingaman (NM) had quite a bit of ego on the line. Other committee members were unenthused. Ken Salazar (CO) is grumpy. Cantwell (WA), Corzine (NJ), and Akaka (HI) are silent. Only Feinstein (CA) and Wyden (OR) voted against it, though.
And we learn again one of the laws of legislative life: If Congressional majority leadership is willing to give away enough pork, there is no bill bad enough that it won’t peel off enough of the other party to pass. "Bipartisan," in this context, never means shared sacrifice, it means shared giveaways. The Bankruptcy bill, CAFTA, and the just-passed highway bill are recent examples.
While responsibility for these excretions ultimately rests with the majority party, the minority does not exactly inspire in its weasly, faux-regretful acquiescence.