Mike Allen, Marc Ambinder, and Juliet Eilperin all report that the Obama administration has adopted a “lame-duck climate strategy.” The idea is to get a slimmed-down energy-only bill through the Senate the week of July 12, drag out conference committee, and send the bill back to both houses in a post-election lame-duck session, “when victorious Democrats will find it easier to make a tough vote and losing ones will be freed of political constraints,” as John Heilemann puts it.
This strikes Mike Tomasky as “chimerical.” Ezra Klein says the administration is “stringing activists along.” Conservatives are already going ballistic; one can only imagine the reaction of the ‘winger media machine if the White House actually tried to pull this off. It would be deafening — “Chicago-style abuse of power blah blah!” — and tut-tutting Beltway journos would be happy, as always, to amplify the right’s procedural complaints. If there’s one thing “centrist” Dems really do seem to believe in, it’s that proper Senate procedure is a precious jewel not to be tarnished (and that one should dive for cover whenever Republicans say boo). Even assuming conservadems went along with it, what Republican could possibly vote for the bill under those circumstances, “moderate” or not?
Even the suggestion has Senate Democratic leaders bitching and moaning, as is their wont when they are called upon to, you know, do their jobs.
In short, I don’t see it happening. It’s not completely out of the realm of the possibility, if Obama suddenly developed a serious Machiavellian streak and Senate Dems have his back. But that would be unprecedented and wildly out of character. So if it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen now, and only if Harry Reid gets some spine and risks his career, which would also be wildly out of character. It doesn’t look good.
There may be some space between a Kerry-Lieberman cap-and-trade system and an energy-only bill, though, and that may be the best way to get something decent out of this process. I’ll address that possibility in a separate post.