Murkowski Vote Dooms Senate Legislation

By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., June 11. 2010 — Their lips say “yes”, but their eyes say “no”. That’s my take on the offer of “practical” energy legislation this week by Senate Republicans. Yes, I’m cynical about the strategy and tactics of the GOP embodied in this legislative proposal (as far as I know, it doesn’t yet exist in bill language, so it’s hard to deconstruct it very concretely).

Thursday’s 53-47 rejection of Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to derail the Obama administration’s regulatory approach to carbon dioxide regulation makes my point more sharply. The Senate rejection of the Murkowski legislation is not significant. That was a foregone conclusion. The central insight is the number of votes Murkowski got; a week ago, Democrats were worried that she might get 40 votes. Her 47 votes included six Democrats: Indiana’s outgoing Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller, and Blanche Lincoln and Mark Prior of Arkansas.
Supporters of comprehensive greenhouse gas legislation — specifically the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade approach — adopted the characteristic response of whistling past the graveyard. “Well,” they were saying after the vote, “this isn’t the whole story. We can still pull off some Republicans who have said there is a climate problem.”
Nonsense. The vote is the Hammer of Doom for the warmers. So, too, is the GOP legislation, proffered by the respected Richard Lugar of Indiana. There is no notion of any kind of explicit carbon dioxide control in the Lugar legislation. It is the same-old same-old: energy efficiency and promises to shut down old, inefficient coal-fired power plants sometime in the future. As J. Wellington Wimpy told Popeye the Sailor Man, “I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today.”
The Lugar energy legislation gives allegedly “moderate” Republicans insurance against claims they are complicit with Dr. No (Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky). Folks such as Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins can tell their constituents that they share the fears about climate change, and supported the Lugar bill in response. (I confess I no longer have any clear idea how to distinguish moderate from liberal from conservative, even among my own views.)
All of this comes as the also-alleged “consensus” on the science of global warming is unravelling faster than a used sweater from Goodwill. I commend to your attention a recent “cross-examination,” which admittedly takes place only on paper, by University of Pennsylvania law professor Jason Scott Johnston.
Johnston compares the scientific claims in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and public statements by advocates of rapid climate action against published, peer-reviewed studies. Johnston concludes that “establishment climate science” has engaged in hyperbole, deliberate over-simplification, and “a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change.”
Even some previous advocates of congressional action are abandoning ship. Mother Jones, hardly an oil industry rag, reported this week that South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — one the great warmer hopes for bipartisan Senate legislation — has recanted his climate views, expressed when he was working with Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on climate legislation.
The lefty mag reported that at a Tuesday press conference, Graham said, “The science about global warming has changed. I think they’ve oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they’ve been alarmist and the science is in question. The whole movement has taken a giant step backward.”