Hill Dems Blow It for Obama with Energy Bill


Both The Hill and Politico.com have reported that a bipartisan "gang" of 20 Senators will not introduce a compromise energy bill before the election. You can read details of the original compromise here: The Gang-of-10 drilling deal is something for nothing.

This is a huge triumph for McCain and major political blunder by Congressional Democrats. The original energy compromise was, I argued, "the best chance -- indeed, the only chance -- the Dems will have to simultaneously give the lie to McCain's faux bipartisanship and to expose the Big Energy Lie, the absurd notion that McCain and the Republicans believe in an all-of-the-above energy for dealing with our energy crises" (see "Gang-of-10 deal is a must for Dems").

Frankly, it was bewildering that Lindsey Graham was part of the original Gang in the first place, given how much a genuine compromise that benefited the entire nation was against the narrow political interests of his close friend from Arizona. It was even more bewildering that House and Senate Dems didn't immediately pick up this bill and vote on it given that it contained the least amount of coastal drilling imaginable while at the same time providing more long-term support for renewables than the House Dems just voted for. You can find details on the House bill here.

Now, whatever energy bill Senate Democrats come up with, McCain and his allies can claim that it is just a partisan Democratic bill, just as the House GOP stood on the House floor and bitterly opposed Pelosi's bill (see "How is the House GOP's behavior last night different from my 19-month-old daughter's").
Politico.com got duped into pushing what will no doubt be the standard GOP line, that ...

... leaders on both sides -- environmentalists on the left and anti-tax conservatives on the right -- were not ready to embrace a bipartisan energy deal so close to the election.
Note to Politico: Don't you think your article should have mentioned at least in passing that the moratorium on coastal drilling is going to expire at the end of this month, so anybody in Congress who cares about the environment needs to sign on to some sort of a compromise? To the extent that some environmentalists did play a supporting role in allowing McCain's allies to kill this without leaving obvious fingerprints, it is yet more evidence that "The environmental community has had its head in the sand when it comes to reality."

The Hill's analysis is somewhat better, though their reporting is still flawed:
Democrats, under pressure to lift a nearly three-decade-old ban on drilling, seemed open to the plan to deflect criticism that they were standing in the way of finding more domestic supplies.
Uhh, not quite. The ban doesn't need to be "lifted." It is set to die automatically at the end of the month unless it is renewed (which ain't going to happen) or some alternative is put in its place.
But many Republicans criticized the plan, raising concerns that by offering a compromise to Democrats and their presidential candidate Barack Obama, it would blunt a potent election-year attack that has gained traction at the polls. GOP presidential candidate John McCain opposed the plan, and Democrats were preparing to attack the Arizona senator for standing in the way of a bipartisan compromise. And many Republicans, like Sen. McCain, said repealing subsidies from oil companies would amount to a tax hike.
Funny how McCain gets to attack Obama for supporting the 2005 Energy Bill on the grounds it gave big subsidies to Big Oil and also gets to attack Democrats for supporting lower subsidies to Big Oil.
Lawmakers have run into roadblocks as the election-year dynamics have shifted. For instance, in a dramatic reversal, the House passed a Democratic energy bill this week that allowed coastal states to drill more than 50 miles off their shores. Plus Democrats are signaling that they will not try to renew the offshore drilling ban after it expires on Oct. 1. As a result, the group was negotiating how far to take the drilling provisions. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), one of the negotiators, said the bipartisan group wasn't looking to end up "on the left of Nancy Pelosi," referring to the House Speaker.
Once House Dems failed to simply adopt the original Senate Gang proposal for limited drilling, but instead insisted on opening up vastly more of our coastal plains, they effectively made the Gang proposal politically untenable, as Thune's remarks make clear. And that just opened up a bidding war:

According to both Democratic and Republican aides directly involved in key meetings Thursday night, the bipartisan coalition's most significant agreement will be to push for drilling on the outer continental shelf, up to 25 miles off-shore, with revenue sharing for each coastal state that asks to "opt in" and allow drilling off their coast. That's a much more aggressive drilling policy than the one passed by the House, which would allow drilling 50 miles off shore, with no oil revenue sharing for states.
Yeah, "Democratic aides" that is truly the "most significant" achievement -- allowing Republicans to walk away from the far more limited drilling in the original Gang-of-10 proposal.

The Dems have mishandled this so badly that you have to wonder now if they are going to be able to pass anything before the moratorium dies on September 30.

To repeat, had a bill based on the original Gang-of-10 been brought to the Senate floor for a vote, it would have put McCain in an untenable position. There is no simple justification for voting against this compromise for any Republican claiming to be for an "all of the above" energy policy, claiming to be someone who bucks his party to reach across the aisle for the best ideas of both parties.

And yet McCain's new oil industry string-pullers hate the bill because they not only want record profits from record oil prices, they also want tens of billions of dollars in government subsidies that were put in place at a time when oil prices were far lower (see "Dog bites man's compromise"). A vote against the bill would be devastating to McCain's entire energy and political message. But a vote for the bill would largely take the offshore drilling issue off the table. And failing to show up for a vote might have been the worst of all for him.

Not to be. Kudos to Linsday Graham for disposing of this major headache for McCain while leaving few fingerprints. You have a bright future as a mob hitman -- although I'd probably leave off your resume that you helped bump off a baby you yourself fathered.

As for Hill Dems and enviros, what is there left to say? Same old same old for you guys and gals. I'd love to know your endgame strategy, assuming you have one.

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