Rahm's Role in Climate Politics: A Twitter Colloquy

Next week's unveiling of the Senate's Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate bill (KGL for the greenorati) sparked an interesting discussion about climate change politics on Twitter. Participating in this informal colloquy were Eric Pooley, the deputy editor at Business Week and author of an upcoming book on the subject, Brad Johnson of the Center for American Progress, and David Roberts of Grist, one of the top environmental beat reporters.Roberts had apparently gotten a sneak peak at Pooley's book, which recounts, among other things, the strenuous political exertions of some Democrats to pass the Waxman-Markey climate change bill last year. Some Democrats exerted themselves, but not all: Roberts tweeted that "Lesson from @EricPooley's book #ClimateWar: at every stage, Rahm [Emanuel] has been a force pushing against climate action. Doesn't see upside."

I tweeted back, agreeing that the White House chief of staff "doesn't want O to spent pol cap."

Which makes it weird, I noted, that Rahm whipped votes for Waxman-Markey last year.

Pooley replied that there's no mystery: "Waxman, Pelosi forced his hand by bringing it to the floor."

Roberts wrote back: "Early in admin, Rahm saw it as morass that wd drain O's popularity & momentum. Still does, I suspect. Thus hands-off approach."

Pooley: "That's why KGL question is: Will Rahm try or just pretend to try? Good news: Obama wants to do it."

He continued:  "Rahm's whip operation isn't going to get #climatebill done. Need O, as steward of economy, to put it all on the line."

Roberts is pessimistic about the chances that Obama will throw himself all in. The White House, he thinks, will provide stealth help and last-minute whipping, but won't put Obama's face on it. "Unlike #HCR, not must-have."

He added: "1 thing to watch is battle over offshore drilling revenue. Potential to blow up KGL coalition before it gets out of the gate."

This requires a bit of extrapolation.

The KGL bill includes, at Graham's insistence, a provision in the bill that would rebate money gained from offshore oil drilling licenses to the states which allow drilling off their coastlines. Many Democratic senators say this is a non-starter because they don't support drilling and don't want to encourage states to take it up. But without the revenue sharing, it's not clear that Democrats can get to 60 votes to even begin floor debate on the legislation.

Another potentially explosive issue: ten Democratic senators want the bill to include help for parts of the manufacturing sector, including border tariffs. These industries use a lot of energy and would be financially penalized (in theory) under the new regime. The administration is keeping mum, for now, but the KGLers do not want to turn the bill into a vehicle for direct reinvestment in the manufacturing sector. And Lindsey Graham, party of one, said today he does not want a "trade war."

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