The Week in Washington

by William Yeatman on June 6, 2008

Well, Democrats have been in the majority for a year and a half.  Nearly every House and Senate committee has held a hearing on it.  The committees of jurisdiction have held scores of hearings.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) even set up a select committee just to hold hearings on why immediate drastic action must be taken to save the world from global warming.

After all that jabber, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, finally brought her bill to the floor this week.  It hardly made a squeak.  It wasn't even a mouse.  It was a slug.  Although to be fair to Boxer, it must be noted that it was a very big slug–filled with 491 tons of hot air to be precise.

The Senate voted on Monday evening to bring the Lieberman-Warner energy rationing bill, formerly S. 2191 but now S. 3036, to the floor.  By Tuesday afternoon, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was complaining that the (mostly Republican) opponents were dragging their feet.  The nerve–they dared to talk about what the bill would do to raise people's gas and electricity prices and how many manufacturing jobs would be lost.  Reid warned that he wouldn't put up with their delaying tactics much longer.

For comparison, as Senator Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) pointed out, the Senate debated the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 for five weeks and considered 180 amendments.  The economic impact of Lieberman and Warner's monstrosity would be several hundred times greater.

The reason Reid started so quickly to prepare the ground to pull the bill is that Boxer and company were making a complete mess of the debate.  On the other side, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) was leading a brilliant operation involving a number of well-prepared Senators to expose the bill's countless problems and shortcomings.

On Wednesday just before 1 PM, Reid introduced on behalf of Boxer an amendment in the nature of a substitute.  Whereas the Lieberman-Warner bill as passed out of committee in December was 150-some pages and the substitute that Boxer released on May 16 was about the same length, the surprise substitute was 491 pages.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately objected to the motion that the amendment be considered as read, so the Clerk then spent from 1 to 9:30 PM reading all 491 ages aloud.  It gave Senators a chance to catch up on their fundraising.

The reason McConnell objected was to call attention to Reid's failure to keep his agreement to hold votes on at least three nominations for appeals court judges before the end of May.  But taking all day to read it made another point relevant to the bill.  Springing a new version on the Senate floor that is more than three times longer than the bill passed out of committee is outrageous.  Reading it aloud gave citizens listening on C-SPAN some vague idea of the trillions of dollars of payoffs to special interests contained in the bill.  But it will take weeks of study to find and analyze all the changes.

Reid then filed a motion to invoke cloture on debate and move to a vote on passage of the Boxer substitute. Not only would no amendments be debated, but Senators would be voting on cloture with almost no idea of what they were voting on.

The cloture vote, which requires sixty yes votes, was held on Friday morning at 9. It failed 48 to 36.  Leader Reid is expected to pull the bill from the floor later today.  That will be it this year for stopping global warming in its tracks and diverting trillions of dollars from consumers to special interests.

I am astonished at the perseverance the forces of darkness have mustered in this debate and the number of obstacles they overcame.  (Reid has devoted more effort to getting post offices renamed for big donors.)  It just shows what you can do when you're determined to save the planet.  But they'll be back next year with a new president who supports cap-n-trade and probably more Democrats in Congress.  This time was just for fun; next time will be deadly serious.

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