Politics

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Tracking Lieberman-Warner: What's next?

America’s Climate Security Act passes out of subcommittee

America's Climate Security Act -- aka the Lieberman-Warner bill -- passed through its first markup hearing today, but not without losing support from the Senate's most vigilant advocate for action against climate change, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) The hearing was, in a sense, a tête-à-tête between Sanders and the bill's primary author, deal-maker extraordinare Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.). It was a chance for Sanders to attempt to improve the bill in ways he must have known would be rejected, and a way for Lieberman to do the actual rejecting -- if only to keep his fragile coalition together. All but one of Sanders' proposed amendments failed badly, including bids to strengthen the auction of pollution allocations, lower the cap on emissions, earmark subsidies for renewable energies, demand accountability from the auto industry, and diminish industry's capacity to stall simply by buying carbon offsets. In most cases, the only man voting alongside Sanders to improve the bill was New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg.

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Lieberman-Warner markup

The vote

After Sens. Barrasso and Baucus (D-Mont.) spent a few minutes fawning over coal, they moved to the vote. Here's the roll call. Yea: Baucus Lautenberg Lieberman Warner (by proxy) No: Isakson Barrasso Sanders Indeed, Sanders rejected it. But, as they say, the ayes have it, and it will be reported favorably to the full committee.

Lieberman-Warner markup

Barrasso and the supposed good will in the GOP

Barrasso (R-Wy.) wants the bill to sunset after five years. This amendment will die, fortunately, but don't forget it. It's emblematic of the supposed goodwill the GOP has in this process. P.S. Lieberman is drowning Lautenberg in obsequiousness. It looks to me as if the chairman has simply accepted the likelihood that Bernie Sanders will oppose this thing and he's counting on the New Jersey senator to pull the bill over the top. The vote's coming up in moments.

Lieberman-Warner markup

Sanders again!

John Barrasso (R-Wy.) has proposed about seven of his own amendments. Most have been either withdrawn or defeated. The others are fairly weak -- so forgive me for skipping them. Sanders, on the other hand, is trying desperately to strengthen this thing, and is meeting with almost no success. He wants to limit the total tonnage of carbon that companies are allowed to offset (in lieu of direct reductions). But Lieberman ... does not. He also wants to increase the mandatory emission reductions under the cap -- to require 80 percent reductions, mandatory reductions, by 2050. This is key. The numbers we've heard from Senator Lieberman -- that his bill will lead to emissions reductions in the neighborhood of 65 percent -- are based in large part on projections. ACSA's mandatory emissions reductions -- the ones under the cap -- are really very weak. But not too weak for Joe Lieberman. Sanders has said this is his most important amendment. It's going to die. So, possibly, will the chances that he'll vote yes on the bill.

Lieberman-Warner markup

Sanders’ fifth amendment

This is a big one. He wants the bill to move to a full auction of allowances by 2026 as opposed to 2036 as currently stipulated. A lot of enviros would like a 100 percent auction from day one, so this isn't as radical as it sounds, but it's still immensely important. But Joe Lieberman says no. He says that the bill as is will already involve some hardship to some industries, so they basically need tons of subsidies. Right. Lieberman paid lip service to the possibility that the auction provisions might be strengthened later on, but said that 2036 is the "balance point" for political compromise right now and killed the amendment nonetheless.

Lieberman-Warner markup

Sanders’ fourth amendment

This one would require the EPA to act if the National Academy of Sciences learns that we have not taken sufficient action to avoid the worst effects of global warming. It's a so-called "look back" amendment. Lieberman ... opposes it! His own amendment package calls for periodic NAS reports, directs the EPA to review those reports and recommend changes to America's Climate Security Act to the Congress. That's an important difference. There's pros and cons to each. Under a good EPA administrator, the Sanders' amendment would be extremely important. Under an EPA administrator like the current one, it would mean four years without look backs. Lieberman's amendment defers to Congress, which as we all know doesn't always get things done super fast. Lautenberg has proposed changing this amendment in a way that would allow Congress to override EPA recommendations, and Sanders has agreed to withdraw the amendment until it can be considered in the full committee.

Lieberman-Warner markup

Opposing Sanders

Joe Lieberman better have buttered up Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) fairly thoroughly, because he's certainly not courting Bernie Sanders. That said, Lieberman has supported Sanders' third amendment, a modest change to the bill requiring the auto industry to meet the CAFE standards -- 35 mpg -- passed by the Senate this year. This amendment, gratefully, has passed.