The most far-reaching effect of Scott Brown’s upset victory in the Massachusetts senatorial election is likely to be on the world’s attempts to combat global warming. It will make it very much harder for a climate and energy bill – primarly promoted, as it happens, by the other senator from the hitherto famously liberal state, John Kerry – to pass the Senate, and that, in turn, would bedevil attempts to revive the prospects for a new international treaty after the fiasco in Copenhagen.
In truth the prospects for the Senate bill have been looking rocky for weeks, despite Kerry’s determined attempts to talk it up. Just two months ago it looked as if it might have a reasonable chance, despite the fact that several Democratic senators from coal and oil states were expected to vote against it, depriving the party of its filibuster-proof 60-strong supermajority. One Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, had joined Kerry in putting forward the bill and some ten others – who had expressed support for climate legislation in the past – were thought to be persuadable, especially if it made provision for massive support for nuclear power.
But the Republican leadership then made the issue one of party loyalty identifying it as a key issue for this autumn’s mid-term elections. Nasty attack ads were launched against Graham in his state, and it was made clear to other potential supporters of the bill that they could not expect any backing at the polls. Today’s result will add one more Republican vote against the bill, and make some Democrats more nervous about supporting it.
Obama does have a fallback strategy if the bill goes down – if he chooses to take it. As the Copenhagen conference opened, his administration took powers to regulate to cut carbon dioxide emissions through its Environment Protection Agency, and some environmentalists believe this would be more effective than relying on the “cap and trade” measures in the bill. Moreover, if the Administration did take this course, it might even revive support for the legislation, since industry would far prefer its proposals to the regulations.
It would take courage from Obama, and aggression, but that might be his political salvation. He has, in fairness, not been short of courage: taking up such contentious issues as healthcare and climate change during a recession shows that. But he has lacked political aggression. His disastrous rebuff in Massachusetts came partly because he had not taken the battle to his opposition over healthcare, stressing the benefits of reform, and so allowing his opponents to define it as an issue of cost and taxation.The Republicans have benefited by fighting for their convictions. If Obama fails to do the same, on today’s showing, he is likely to be done for anyway.
Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here