Northern Country

How globalization changes capitalism, the economy and politics

The new Bunch – climate change bill passes House

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Obama Democrats

I recently argued in What change – one step forward two steps back that when it comes to foreign policy the Obama administration lacks their long touted claims for change and yes we can. But I am willing to give Obama credit when it comes to making important progress on environmental policies. The bill passed by the House of Representatives on Friday can be viewed as a significant change and setback for neoliberal neoconservative forces in Washington.

After many years of stonewalling international efforts to fight climate change politicians in Washington demonstrated that change is indeed possible. Friday evening a much anticipated roll call on the floor of the House of Representatives succeeded with a narrow margin of 219 to 212 votes. This historic climate and energy legislation is a significant win for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a democrat from California, and president Barack Obama.

Of course this vote is only the first step to a final legislation finding its way to Obama’s desk. It is now up to the Senate to take the bill to the next level. This might be more challenging than Friday’s vote. Already Forty-four democrats voted against the bill and just eight republicans crossed the aisle to support it. In the Senate the margin of the vote for democrats is certainly smaller.

Some freshman democrats, who’s vote is up again in 2010, had to be protected by their older peers. Nevertheless a day long effort by leading democrats in the House of Representatives and outside obviously helped to secure the necessary votes. It is no secrete that republicans in general consider this bill unpopular among ordinary Americans and blast it as economic catastrophe . In an immediate reaction the National Republican Congressional Committee in a press release therefore accused more than two dozen democrats to support a bill that would cost jobs and raise electricity prices for already recession plagued consumers.

“This is the biggest job killing bill that’s ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives. Right here, this bill, said House Minority Leader John Boehner. And I don’t think that’s what the American people want.”

Old-America versus new-America is the struggle that is heating up since the Obama administration moved into the White House. The old neoconservative, neoliberal leadership is wearing down and a new modern America emerges with a renewal to the claim for World-leadership. The world is ready to say to America: If you just unite us we are ready to follow.

There is of course a long way to go but this bill is certainly a step in the right direction. The main sponsors were House Energy and Commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) and Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey (D). Together Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former vice president Al Gore, the don of the climate-change world, and significant efforts from the White House helped to push it through.

“We passed transformational legislation which takes us into the future, Pelosi said at a press conference following the vote, after she and other leaders took congratulatory phone calls from Obama, former Vice President Al Gore and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The final legislation will help to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. It will do so by putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions through a cap-and–trade system. It will help to increase energy efficiency and mandate a 20 percent renewable energy contribution by 2020. According to democrats it will, increase electricity prices for consumers only by $175 a year per household by 2020, much less than the $3000 price hike predicted by republicans.

More proof for democrats’ commitment to change in environmental policies came also on Friday with a $32.3 billion natural resources budget bill clearing the House. Additional funds will be used to increase Energy Protection Agency core programs in clean-water projects and Superfund toxic-waste cleanups. Unlike the climate-change vote this call, 261 to 179, was more decisive. Most republicans of course rejected the bill and argued that increasing EPA funds by almost 40 percent is simply irresponsible with the economy contracting. Funny I am sure they did not oppose the spending-on-the-troops part of a $106 billion war-funding bill that passed the House on June 16. Democrats argued that additional funding for EPA is only making up for years of real reductions under George W.

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Written by Alfred

27. June 2009 at 11:10 am

One Response

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  1. […] if he will be forced to revoke his signing statement. His foray into environmental politics (see also here), for the first time opening up the United States to international commitments to substantially […]


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