In the spring of 2009, President Barack Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to be on the precipice of tackling two priorities that had come to symbolize congressional inaction: health-care reform and climate change.
Ed Markey, then a veteran House member from Massachusetts who was hand-picked by Pelosi to chair a new House climate panel, was on the way to getting the cap-and-trade bill he had co-authored with fellow Democrat Henry Waxman to the floor.
Markey in those days stood out from many other House members because he appeared to always have a dozen or so energy and climate reporters in tow; a year later they would be reporting the bill’s demise in the Senate.
Markey went on to the Senate—in 2013 he won former Sen. John Kerry’s seat--but Pelosi has spent the last five years in the minority, the most visible casualty of the House Republican takeover in 2011.
Markey says that’s about to change, largely because presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is about to be roundly rejected by voters.
Trump’s defeat, Markey said, will usher in not only a Democratic-controlled Senate but the return of the Speaker’s gavel to Pelosi.
“Yes, Nancy Pelosi is going to be [House] Speaker in January,” Markey declared at one point last week in an hour-long interview with Bloomberg BNA; a prediction that would strike even some Democrats as unrealistic and Republicans as delusional.
“Trump is a uniter and not a divider,” Markey said, who is “going to unite the Democratic Party in a way that they have not been united in a generation.”
Cap-and-Trade Vote Signaled Partisan Divide.
Today Markey’s Senate office is a showcase for landmark bills he pushed through the House—some with pens Republican and Democratic presidents used to sign them into law—but not the cap-and-trade bill Pelosi had made a priority.
No one could predict that the bill’s narrow passage in the House in June 2009—by a vote of 219-212—would be the high point for a bill that died a year later without even a vote on the Senate floor. And in a harbinger of the partisan divide on climate change that has only deepened in the years since, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act garnered just eight Republican votes.
In an odd twist of fate, one of those eight Republicans, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, today is fighting to hold one of the four seats Democrats will need to win to control the Senate (a net gain of four means a 50-50 Senate, where Hillary Clinton’s vice president could break the tie; if Trump wins Democrats will need a net gain of five seats).
But Democrats will need Republicans like Kirk to have any hope of moving significant climate legislation: he’s relatively moderate on environmental issues, with a lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters of 57 percent. Kirk is actually rated higher than three Democrats: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).
Incremental Change Ahead?
The need for Republican votes is one reason Markey sees the need for incremental action on climate change and clean energy. He cites a recent House vote against a carbon tax as evidence Congress is a long way off from resurrecting a broad climate bill.
But he does relish the prospect of Democrats controlling the Senate in 2017, which he says will be made easier from comments by Trump on issues such as climate change—“global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump once tweeted.
“Trump’s climate science is as bogus as a degree from Trump University,” Markey said, referring to the nominee’s real estate training academy that has been the subject of several lawsuits.
In the end, the senator said, Democrats should welcome more similar pronouncements from the Republican nominee. “One, it is going to help us win the election” and put Clinton in the White House, Markey said. “Two, it is going to help us inject the [climate] issue into this presidential campaign in a way that is going to be very advantageous for the Democratic party.”
Read my full interview at Markey Says ‘Political Obstacles' Impede Broad Climate Bill.
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