Memo to WaPo: Opposition to Cap-and-Trade Is Bipartisan

by William Yeatman on April 1, 2011

in Blog, Features

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Yesterday, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein posted about the President’s pitch for a so-called “Clean Energy Standard.” I don’t recommend his explanation; for a much more accurate description of the CES, check out this blog, by my colleague Marlo Lewis.

In this post, I intend only to rebut Klein’s mistaken claim that Congressional opposition to cap-and-trade is partisan. In fact, opposition to energy rationing schemes is one of the very few issues that enjoys support on both sides of the aisle in the Congress.

Klein started his post with “a quick history” of Congressional climate policies. Here’s what he said,

“In the beginning, there was the carbon tax, which would work by putting a price on carbon. But that had no political support. Then there was cap-and-trade, which would work by making producers purchase permits for the carbon they emitted, and in so doing, would put a price on carbon. But though John McCain actually had a cap-and-trade proposal in 2008, Republicans eventually turned on cap-and-trade—Sarah Palin’s first post-election op-ed was dedicated to decrying “cap-and-tax” as “an enormous threat to our economy…”

Later, Klein wrote,

“…Republican politicians who know perfectly well that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system are desirable policy have refused to stand up to the right wing of their party. They are profiles in cowardice…”

In assigning credit for the death of cap-and-trade to the “right wing” of the Republican Party, Klein ignores an inconvenient truth: Opposition to energy rationing is bipartisan. Consider,

  • On June 6 2008, in the immediate wake of the Senate’s rejection of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade, which had been extensively reworked by Senator Barbara Boxer, 10 Senate Democrats—about 20 percent of the caucus—sent Senator Boxer a letter explaining that they voted or would have voted against her cap-and-trade because it would cause “undue hardship” for their constituents.
  • On June 26 2009, forty Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a cap-and-trade energy rationing bill co-written by Henry Waxman.
  • During the 2010 summer, Senate Democrats held weekly caucus meetings to build support for a Senate companion bill to the American Clean Energy and Security Act. They failed (spectacularly), because few Democratic Senators were willing to vote for an energy tax during a recession.

If cap-and-trade truly were a partisan matter, then it would have been enacted in the last Congress, when the supposedly pro-cap-and-trade party was in charge of the White House and both Chambers of Congress. We should all be happy that Klein is wrong; bipartisanship in the Congress has saved us from energy rationing.

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