The House’s most indecipherable, um, cipher
I’ve been getting some interesting — and widely varied — reactions to this post on Dingell. So here’s a follow-up.
First, MoveOn’s political action campaign director, Ilyse Hogue, sends me this:
Rep. Dingell has been late to the game and is well behind other Democratic leaders whose vision can make our country competitive in the 21st century. His calls in the last couple days for greenhouse gas reductions and (maybe) a carbon tax are good steps. But this is not about horse trading; it’s about listening to the American people and a climate bill that takes stand against industry and provides for all working Americans. Our members’ voices reflect most Americans who are desperate for a sane approach to climate change and energy. And we think grassroots engagement helps this process move forward.
She, like lots of progressives, is ticked off about Dingell’s endorsement of clean coal, his attempt to pre-empt state tailpipe air quality standards, and in general is oppositionalism toward Pelosi while she tries to get things going on energy.
The call for GHG reductions she’s talking about happened a few days ago, when Dingell endorsed the strong 80%-by-2050 target (sub. rqd.) greens have long been pushing for:
As his committee began marking up a six-part energy package, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said his climate legislation would aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 80 percent by 2050 — toward high-end targets backed by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and many Democratic presidential candidates.
“We should set ambitious goals and targets for that legislation,” Dingell said. “It should stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at levels that will avoid or avert large-scale climate change consequences. That will require a reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions of between 60, and perhaps as much as 80, percent by 2050.”
Maybe it’s all talk, maybe he plans to pack the bill with a bunch of nasty provisions when nobody’s watching, but that sounds like some progress to me. Trust but verify, as they say.
I also missed a great New Republic piece that is quite insightful as to Dingell’s state of mind and his ongoing feud with Waxman. Here’s the main take-home:
His ire is directed at what he calls “these damned environmentalists” — “I have been constantly criticized by them,” he says — and at his own colleagues who have been inspired by visions of a global apocalypse. These dire warnings have severely backfired with Dingell: He views their bearers as caught in a rush to save the world while forgetting the sacred mechanisms of legislating and the economic machine that fuels the American dream. “I have no sympathy for somebody who doesn’t want to write a balanced bill,” he grouses.
The piece concludes with something that reinforces my point from before:
But, by painting Dingell as a tyrant and mounting coups, the green-minded may be hurting their own cause. Dingell likes to make deals–he’s fashioned successful ones, he reminds me, on environmental issues ranging from ocean dumping to endangered species. And, despite his open frustration, he is no lion in winter, raging on a lonely throne while his court machinates around him. He is still chairman, and his umbrage affects what the House can accomplish. “I keep telling the environmental leaders, ‘Don’t piss him off,'” says [energy consultant Philip] Sharp, almost pleadingly. “It doesn’t serve their interests.”
I guess we’ll find out now!
And finally, an article in CongressNow today (sub. rqd.) notes that Dingell’s pissing everybody off by ruling tons of amendments (on both sides) non-germane for the purposes of getting a bill through committee:
Dingell acknowledged the dissent in his opening statement. "I recognize that the bills we are working on today may have displeased some of our more ideologically inclined colleagues on the left and the right, who might want us to be more prescriptive on the regulatory side, or more permissive on the production side."
Basically he’s kicking a lot of cans down the road, provisions that will be debated on the floor instead (where circumstances are more favorable to progress). If anything, Republicans are more angry — they didn’t get their oil, gas, and coal subsidies, poor darlings. What will their paymasters think?
Say what you will about Dingell, the guy knows how to get legislation done. Too bad he’s such a damn cipher. He seems to have sensed which way the political winds are blowing — and yeah, some kudos are due to MoveOn and others who are keeping them blowing — and it looks like he might actually bang out a decent bill in the end. But stay tuned.