Cross-posted from NRDC Action Fund Blog
It is possible for Senators to walk and chew gum at the same time, despite what their detractors may claim. You can see that now with what’s happening on clean energy and climate legislation even as Congress wrestles health care reform to the ground.
Even with the focus on health care, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are moving ahead with their plans to craft a viable energy and climate bill. Indeed, their work will reach a climax over the next week or so as they finally unveil the product of their months of negotiation.
That will make energy and climate a focal point of public discussion in Washington, and climate and energy may jostle with health care for news space as health winds down and climate talks ramp up.
Getting health care off the agenda could give a boost to climate in several ways. First, and most obviously, it will clear the calendar of a contentious issue that has consumed an enormous amount of time and attention.
Second, Democrats may find that it actually feels good to deliver on a major issue. Once the bill passes, media coverage and public attention is likely to shift away from the process and will start looking at what the health bill would actually do. That may very well lead to a much more positive take on health care.
Third, the passage of health care reform could actually lead to public pressure for Congress to take more action. The Republicans are threatening to shut down the Congress out of pique about legislative process. It’s not likely, though, that the public will tolerate a protest over passing legislation by a majority vote.
These efforts to do nothing tend to look better prospectively and in the abstract than when they actually happen. Remember the government shut down? That didn’t end up helping the Republicans.
If the end result of health care is to highlight just how obstructionist the Republicans are being and just how damaging that is to the public, then energy and climate legislation could benefit.
But one can speculate endlessly. Depending on the day, I could argue both sides of the coin pretty convincingly. But that doesn’t matter. What’s clear now is that things are about to change because there is forward movement on energy and climate legislation even amidst all the chest thumping on health care.
As one of my colleagues has noted, no one who opposes climate legislation is going on vacation now. Everything that needs to happen for energy and climate legislation to advance is happening. With everyone seemingly preoccupied by the healthcare bill, Congress is still walking the climate bill forward. They may yet walk the bill all the way to the White House.