WASHINGTON -- I recently predicted that President Obama's cap-and-trade energy taxes would be the first casualty of his ambitious legislative agenda.
A bipartisan group of Senate Democrats and Republicans drove the first nail into its coffin by adding an amendment to the pending budget resolution. The amendment will deny carbon-emissions-tax supporters the use of a fast-track budget reconciliation rule to limit debate and pass their tax scheme by a simple majority, skirting the tougher 60-vote hurdle to end debate and quickly move to consideration of the measure.
Senate Democratic leaders do not have the 60 votes to bring cap-and-trade to an up-or-down vote. And even if they had 60 members of their party in the Senate, they would lose many, if not most, Midwestern and Gulf State Democrats who fear that Al Gore's so-called climate-change tax scheme on all carbon emissions would be the death knell of their states' oil- and gas-powered economies.
Wednesday's vote on an amendment by Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns was a major setback for the White House and top Democratic leaders in Congress. Twenty-six Democrats joined 41 Republicans in the 67-31 vote to insert the amendment into the budget resolution.
The Democrat who first predicted the demise of Obama's energy tax is Bill Galston, President Clinton's chief White House domestic policy adviser and a longtime policy strategist (also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution).
"It is gradually dawning on Washington that cap-and-trade legislation won't pass anytime soon -- certainly not this year, and probably not next year either," Galston wrote in a blog last month that was widely read on Capitol Hill and in the White House.
But cap-and-trade is still alive and breathing in the House, where liberal Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts unveiled their 648-page bill last week for rationing energy use in the United States.
Lawmakers in both parties were aghast when they read the bill's fine print. "The Democrats' ruse of an energy plan is nothing more than a regressive tax being offered when families, small businesses and farmers ... can least afford it," said GOP Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri.
"Their proposal will cost any family that turns on a light switch, drives a car, plugs in an appliance, or purchases an American-made item an extra $3,100 a year," he said.
The Waxman-Markey bill would be especially damaging to Blunt's home state where, he said, "almost 90 percent of electricity is coal-generated."
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis of a less-intrusive cap-and-trade plan estimated it would cost about $3,128 per household nationally.