For Obama, a major victory on climate

Facing a rare defeat, President Barack Obama put a big dose of political capital on the line and scored a major victory just when he needed one.

In private telephone conversations and last-minute public appeals, Obama leaned heavily on House Democratic holdouts to support the first energy legislation ever designed to curb global warming. The measure ended up passing in dramatic fashion.

In the end, the president’s furious lobbying — coupled with a final push by allies including former Vice President Al Gore — carried much weight. To a certain extent, the victory validated Obama’s governing style — and that could bode well for his other top domestic priority, health care. He faces an even more difficult test in shepherding the energy and climate legislation through the Senate.

Obama recognizes as much.

"Now my call to every senator, as well as to every American, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past," Obama said in his weekend Internet and radio address. He scrapped his talk on his original topic, health care, and recorded the climate bill speech shortly after the Democratic-controlled House backed the measure on a 219-212 vote late Friday.

It was a win Obama certainly needed. Congress was getting ready for a weeklong holiday break and already health care was hanging in the balance. While his popularity remains strong, Obama’s overall ratings have slipped a bit. This restive nation also is wary of some of his proposals, including deficit spending as Obama pumps an enormous amount of money into the economy and elsewhere.

The narrow House vote suggests potential trouble ahead with the Democratic rank-and-file as the White House seeks to tackle more big-ticket issues in Obama’s first year in office; health care tops the list.

As Congress tackles that contentious issue, Obama’s left flank is beating up him and his allies over the effort to overhaul the costly and complex U.S. medical system. Moderate Democrats are looking to forge compromises to pass a measure; liberal critics are dug in over elements they want to see in any legislation. Liberal groups are running ads against senators who won’t publicly support a government program to compete against private insurers.

Democrats have a comfortable House majority. But the climate legislation pitted Democrats who represent East Coast states that have been cleaning up their act against Democrats in the Mideast and other places that rely heavily on coal and industry. They have a longer, more expensive path to meet requirements in the measure.

Senate passage is far from certain, given that Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to cut off a likely filibuster.

Obama’s personal touch — and another dose of his political capital — will be required again.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s "This Week" that he didn’t expect Senate action until the fall. "We’re trying to solve a problem that has languished for a decade," he said.

"I hope it won’t pass the Senate," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on "Fox News Sunday," claiming the measure would lead to "significant increases in electricity across America."

In the House, Obama was vindicated — at least for now — with his hands-off approach to accomplishing his legislative goals. He prefers to provide broad policy principles on his priorities, leaving the details to Congress.

Obama acknowledged Sunday that he had reservations about a provision that would penalize trade partners that don’t work to curb pollution. "At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there," he told a group of reporters.

Still, he called the bill "an extraordinary first step."

He temporarily may have put to rest concerns — expressed publicly by Republicans and privately by Democrats — that he’s trying to do too much: so many policy changes in the midst of a recession and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama has had a string of early successes, the $787 billion economic stimulus among them.

The climate bill victory was different. It was grander. It had international consequences. It perhaps meant more to Obama than the others.

After ignoring global warming for decades, most leading nations now agree it’s an urgent danger. The U.S. public, too, has come to same conclusion in recent years.

The House measure would, for the first time, limit the pollution blamed for global warming while signaling a new commitment to combating global warming. President George W. Bush gave the matter the short shrift.

Remaking the energy industry and curbing global warming have been hallmarks of Obama’s platform since he began his presidential campaign in 2007, if not before that.

Sensing the legislation was in trouble early last week, the White House stepped up its involvement.

First, Obama pressed the House to act during a news conference.

Then, the White House held a hastily arranged Rose Garden event Thursday that raised the stakes. Obama pleaded for votes, acknowledged the changed world view on the subject and stressed the opportunity at hand for the United States.

"The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this as well. And now is the time for us to lead," he said.

A day later, after a flurry of phone calls from Obama to recalcitrant Democrats, the House spoke — and said it agreed.

Will the Senate?


Liz Sidoti has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 2003.


  1. woody188

    After ignoring global warming for decades, most leading nations now agree it’s an urgent danger. The U.S. public, too, has come to same conclusion in recent years.

    Name the countries and cite the documentation indicating such. Can’t because it’s lies and fabrication. Always be wary when “reporters” use absolutes like these. Could this be our generations Stamp Act?

    Interesting Obama compared it to the cost of a stamp per day. Note stamps have increased in price over 200% since 1980. Let’s hope it isn’t an apt comparison. Bloomberg News reported on March 12 that the budget that President Obama proposed in February anticipated revenues of almost $650 billion by 2019 from a cap-and-trade program. So is Obama lying about the real costs?

    It would seem so.

    Maybe next we can create some type of tax and blame the Big Bang Theory. Or maybe a growth tax based on the Theory of Evolution. Of course Creationists would be exempt seeing how they don’t believe in natural selection and prefer the good think of an all-knowing, all-powerful Zeus or God if you prefer.

    Obama acknowledged Sunday that he had reservations about a provision that would penalize trade partners that don’t work to curb pollution. “At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there,” he told a group of reporters.

    This would be the China exemption. This means we will continue to send jobs overseas where cap and trade does not exist to save money. Bye bye another million to seven million US jobs.

    This also proves cap and trade isn’t about saving the environment or the world, or else we would penalize polluters like China. It’s about taking from you and I, and giving to “clean” companies like those in Silicon Valley and to the upper class wealthy that will establish the trading market like Al Gore, while all the “dirty jobs” will be sent away where cap and trade doesn’t exist. Mike Rowe is going to have to get the Discovery Channel to set up a Beijing office for him.

    The CFR gets what it wants once again regardless of what “we the people” might want. Cap and trade was one of their major goals in the establishment of a one world government. Whose victory is this really, and who does Obama really work for?

    Change we can believe in. Still believe?

  2. griff

    What a joke. Excerpts from the summary…

    “Requires the Administrator to promulgate regulations to phase down the consumption of and regulate the production of HFCs. Specifies consumption allowances for: (1) each of 2012-2032; and (2) 2033 and thereafter. Provides for: (1) the distribution, auction, banking, exchange, and international transfer of such allowances; and (2) the issuance of offset credits for the destruction of chlorofluorocarbons. Establishes the Stratospheric Ozone and Climate Protection Fund, into which the Administrator shall deposit all proceeds from the sale of such allowances.”

    “Amends the Commodity Exchange Act to provide for transactions in derivatives that involve energy commodities. Gives the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) jurisdiction over the establishment, operations, and oversight of markets for regulated allowance derivatives.”

    Another money-making scheme for Al Gore and friends. Get rid of derivatives? Not a chance, we just needed a market for new ones. Folks, they’re gonna tax the living hell out of us with this, and funnel that money into more financial shenanigans. And of course, the burden will lie with the taxpayer, and the laws will be selectively enforced, as usual.

    Get ready for another speculative/derivatives market.

    The mainstream news is doing nothing to explain what this means or give any real details. The only thing that matters is which party “won” and which party “lost”.

    And of course, Obama’s promise of allowing the public access to any important legislation for five days prior to a vote has gone by the wayside in short order. But I guess the “most important legislation of our time” is so important that noone should read it or debate it.

    Like the stimulus. Like the Bailout.

    Ron Paul’s take.

    The administration has pointed to Spain as a shining example of this type of progressive energy policy. Spain has been massively diverting capital from the private sector into politically favored environmental projects for the better part of a decade, and many in Washington apparently like what they see. However, under no circumstances should anyone serious about economic recovery emulate an economy that is now approaching 20 percent unemployment, where every green job created, eliminated 2.2 real jobs and cost around $800,000 each!

    The real inconvenient truth is that the cost of government regulations, taxes, fees, red tape and bureaucracy is a considerable expense that has to be considered when companies decide where to do business and how many people they can afford to hire. Increasing governmental burden directly causes capital flight and job losses, as Spain has learned. In this global economy its easy enough for businesses to relocate to countries that are more politically friendly to economic growth. If our government continues to kick the economy while its down, it will be a long time before it gets back up. In fact, jobs are much more likely to go overseas, compounding our problems.

    And for what? Contrary to claims repeated over and over, there is no consensus in the scientific community that global warming is getting worse or that it is manmade. In fact over 30,000 scientists signed a petition recently directly disputing the claims on which this policy is based. Legitimate environmental claims should instead be directed towards the public sector. The government, especially the military, is the most serious polluter in the country, and is exempt from most EPA regulations. Meanwhile Washington bureaucrats have classified the very air we exhale as a pollutant and have gone unchallenged in this incredible assertion. The logical consequence is that there will come a time when we will have to buy a government permit just to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from our own lungs!

  3. almandine

    With ANY rational thought whatsoever, the Senate may squash this punitive fiscal nightmare.

    Let’s wait til they vote before declaring Major Victory.

    Gerald Celente on Obamageddon: