Muckraker: Grist on Politics

David posted on Barbara Boxer’s big global warming announcement yesterday, in which the California senator promised to introduce two climate bills in January. The first would authorize a $15 billion clean-energy grant program, and the second would the EPA to develop a carbon cap-and-trade system by amending the Clean Air Act.

The announcement is significant in that it demonstrates Boxer’s desire to keep climate legislation within her Environment and Public Works Committee next year. In the Senate, several other committees could claim jurisdiction: Energy and Natural Resources, under chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.); Finance, under chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.); and even possibly Commerce, Science, and Transportation, led by Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

It’s Bingaman, however, who is most aggressively challenging Boxer’s ability to take the lead on climate legislation, as highlighted by the fact that he introduced his own climate bill last year. After the death of the Lieberman-Warner bill in June, Bingaman was quick to start positioning himself for 2009, and earlier this week he laid out his vision for the Senate’s energy agenda.

Boxer’s announcement also signals a desire to break legislation into smaller, less complex pieces. One of the biggest criticisms of last year’s climate bill was that it was simply too complex, attempting to cover too much ground at once. It was also criticized for the massive pool of money it envisioned — $6.7 trillion dollars in total. Boxer was also criticized for ushering the bill through too fast, and for not giving legislators enough time to sift through such a complex piece of legislation. Boxer is clearly signaling now that climate action will come via a variety of smaller, more pointed pieces of legislation, rather than one giant cap-and-trade bill.

Here is a portion of Boxer’s remarks from yesterday:

President-elect Obama’s clear, unequivocal commitment to stepping up to the challenge of global warming was music to my ears. I believe strongly that when we address the threat of unchecked global warming by investing in clean energy technologies and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we also have a recipe for economic recovery. The time to start is now, and my colleagues and I are here to step up to President-elect Obama’s call to action to address global warming and create millions of green jobs in America.

In our Environment and Public Works Committee: Instead of denial, we will have resolve. Instead of procrastination, we will have action. Instead of listening to the voices of the stagnant status quo, our committee hears our President-elect and hears voices like Thomas Friedman, who wrote in his most recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded that how we respond to the global warming challenge will be “the defining measure of a country’s economic standing, environmental health, energy security, and national security over the next 50 years.”