How Obama failed on cap-and-trade and consequences for health care

Early coverage of the Cap and Trade bill has focused on the successes of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, although I noted that it was also a success for conservative movement groups.

However, focus is beginning to shift. Maybe they didn't get what they wanted? The New York Times' John Broder notes that various groups lobbied the hell out of it. He focuses on the utilities:

The biggest concessions went to utilities, which wanted assurances that they could continue to operate and build coal-burning power plants without shouldering new costs. The utilities received not only tens of billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits, but also billions for work on technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal combustion to help meet future pollution targets.

By not auctioning these permits, Obama lost a huge amount of money for his earlier proposals. Donald Marron notes that this totals about $600b in revenue that this bill didn't create.

Now think about what Joe Lieberman said yesterday about the health care bill...

Lieberman cited the cost of a public plan as his primary beef with the plan.

"Part of my concern is that, and this goes to the…growing national debt, that inevitably if we create a public option, the public is going to end up pay for it and that's a cost we can't take on," he said.

If Obama had come out of this cap and trade debate with an extra $600b, the healthcare debate would look a lot -- A LOT -- different.

As the scope of the deficit becomes clearer and the political salience of it rises, the cap and trade bill may look like an increasingly poor deal for America, but also the rest of the Obama agenda.

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By Soren Dayton, ago

The successes of the anti-cap-and-trade movement

I was struck on Thursday and Friday of last week by the extent to which activists on the right were deeply engaged on the Cap and Trade bill that narrowly passed the house last Friday.

The thing is, the media has not played this issue up. The same week that the House voted on the bill, President Barack Obama held a prime-time townhall on healthcare. Even the conservative media was mostly engaged primarily with the healthcare debate. Obama and the Democrats played and won the media cycle war.

But the conservative groups, especially Americans for Prosperity, and conservative blogs like Redstate and others kicked in. From both Republicans and Democrats, we heard about enormous call volume coming into the House. This provided a robust whip-like mechanism.

Activists understood that they were the difference between this bill passing and not.

Now the fight moves to the Senate. Already, we see Obama caving on key provisions of the deal that kept protectionist Democrats together. It is hard to see how the Democrats find the votes, especially when they need full support from the Midwest to keep their caucus together.

And next time, it is hard to see how the issue is kept under the radar. The American people will be much, much more deeply engaged.

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By Soren Dayton, ago

CBS gets Republicans on the record on global warming

CBS News has been running an interesting series called "Primary Questions." They ask the candidates a variety of policy and personal questions. Sometimes this format seems closer to what we'd like from a debate in terms of clarifying policy differences. However, it doesn't always result in the nice contrasting sound-bites that you might otherwise get.

  Giuliani Huckabee McCain Romney Thompson
Human caused yes yes? yes yes maybe 
Cap-and-trade   yes
Nuclear yes   yes  yes  
Must solve globally
Tonight, the candidates are answering the question: "Do you think the risks of climate change are at all overblown?" I have discussed the real-world politics (what real people actually think) and some of the beltway politics of the issue. It is clear in New Hampshire, at least, that Republicans think that global warming is an issue that the government must act on, even if it is one that is a low-priority for primary voters.

In the end,  as I have said, I think that this is an issue that is more important as a credibility issue than a ballot issue. Very few people are going to vote on the specifics of plans on global warming. But people, including Republicans, are increasingly seeing this as an issue that candidates need to have a credible position on to be a credible candidate. Anecdotally, it seems clear to me that this is something that is important to a number of Evangelical and Catholic groups.

I have summarized the responses in a table. I think it is revealing.

The main proposal on the table is cap-and-trade. Greg Mankiw, a Romney economic advisor and a former Bush Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors has a very cogent criticism of cap-and-trade, but calls for carbon taxes instead.  The quotes from the candidates are after the jump. (more…)

By Soren Dayton, ago