The margin of victory was small, but the significant can't be understated: in passing the largest and most ambitious overhaul to the nation's energy policy in decades, Democrats in the House of Representatives are celebrating a genuine policy accomplishment. The bill is so big, so audacious, even in its watered down form, that if it somehow manages to pass the Senate, it will almost immediately change the lives and lifestyle of every American, the fortunes of major industries, and the economic future of regions, cities and towns. That's one of the reasons why opponents -- not opponents who thought it didn't go far enough, but the ones who were opposed to the cap-and-trade idea itself -- went to great lengths to fight back against it. This is one of those bills that does something.
I don't know enough about the economics of climate change to weigh in -- Conor Clarke and Jim Manzi should give you a good representation of the arguments -- but from the perspective of institutional politics, I'd say that the winners tonight are Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ability to corral her caucus behind legislation that would disproportionately hurt some of their districts is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of her tenure; the persistence of Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, who insisted on moving this bill forward even though the White House was skeptical, and the nimble rulemaking of Louise Slaughter, who managed the amendments process in a way that gave just enough Republicans and Democrats just enough of a reason to support it. It's on to the Senate, where longtime climate skeptic James Inhofe says it's DOA. We will see.
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