First, 57 Democratic Senators walked out of a caucus meeting today sounding like they'd been to a summer blockbuster movie instead. The meeting was thrilling and inspirational. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
"A number of senators said this was the best caucus they've ever attended," Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said at a press conference after the meeting. "It was really very, very powerful. It was inspirational, quite frankly."
And within a few hours, we learn why Democratic Senators sound like 57 cats who hijacked the cream truck: Reid is making a high-stakes gamble on a climate bill. Not a clean energy bill, but a climate bill to cap greenhouse gases. Details below the fold.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning a high-risk, high-stakes strategy for bringing climate and energy legislation to the floor ahead of the August recess.
The gamble: yoking a bipartisan, fast-track measure to overhaul offshore drilling rules with a broad, contentious bill capping greenhouse gas emissions that otherwise would have almost no chance of passage on its own.
Note a bold new strategy. Instead of combining climate with clean energy, then listening to conservadems whine that climate has to be ditched in favor of a clean-energy-only bill, Reid is unambiguously coupling climate with a politically popular Spill Bill. He's daring conservadems and Republicans to stand with Bad People and Beach Polluters, or stand with the American public.
The ads write themselves. "Will the Party of Barton vote with BP against America's clean energy future?" "Will Republicans keep on apologizing to Big Oil for burdensome regulations, or will they stand up for the American people?" "Democrats want polluters to pay, Republicans want to give them a license to pollute free."
The strategy isn't a guaranteed win. Already conservadems Landrieu and Bayh are dithering. Politico, again: "Thus far, Reid can’t count on all Democrats coalescing around this approach. Several say they are fearful that hitching a popular oil reform bill to a big, unwieldy climate plan will just sink legislation that could otherwise serve as a quick, easy and politically popular win." Details of the bill are sketchy, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Reid's bill include some clean energy components.
Senator Inhofe has already tweeted:
Reid planning a high-risk, high-stakes strategy 4 bringing climate & energy legislation 2 the floor ahead of Aug recess
However, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has tweeted music to this blogger's ears:
I will keep fighting to ensure #cleanenergy legislation includes a cap on carbon pollution.
Mark Udall deserves our full support. So does Harry Reid.
Let's hope the high stakes gamble pays off. Update: Brad Johnson, a fierce climate advocate at ThinkProgress, points out the error in Politico's framing. Reid may be thinking big, but it's Inhofe and his ilk who gamble with the future of the planet.