“Climate Peacocks”
July 01, 2010, 7:00am

The Progress Report

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Brad Johnson, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, Tanya Somanader

July 1, 2010

Climate Peacocks

Like deficit peacocks who pretend to be hawkish on budgets but refuse any real solution, climate peacocks are politicians who strut with fine words about science, energy reform, and the environment, but reject solutions to the threat of climate change. “Climate peacocks like to preen and call attention to themselves with flashy moves,” Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Joe Romm writes, “but they are not sincerely interested in taking the difficult but necessary steps toward reducing carbon pollution.” With the greatest environmental disaster in United States history destroying the Gulf of Mexico and the hottest year on record killing Americans with extreme heat waves and freak storms, now would seem to be the time for the Senate to end its allegiance to Big Oil and Big Coal. Some senators, like James Inhofe (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY), simply deny the threat of man-made global warming and defend the oil and coal companies who fill their campaign coffers. Unlike these true obstructionists, the climate peacocks hypocritically profess to be concerned and say that the Congress should act — but somehow find fault in any solution offered. “The line from most of these folks is that they want Congress, rather than the [Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)], to take the lead on global warming,” the New Republic’s Brad Plumer writes. “Trouble is, many of them won’t vote for a climate bill, either.”

PEACOCKS STRUT AND OBSTRUCT: In June, 47 senators — every Republican and six Democrats — voted for climate peacock Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) resolution to overturn the EPA’s scientific global warming endangerment finding, finalized after Bush delayed the mandate to obey the language of the Clean Air Act. Twenty-one of Murkowski’s supporters were climate peacocks, claiming they voted to reject science in order to preserve the balance of power between the legislative and executive branch. “This is an issue that deserves a full debate in Congress,” crowed Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). “Controlling the levels of carbon emissions is the job of Congress,” cried Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). They said that they had to overturn the EPA’s scientific finding because setting pollution limits should instead be the job of the elected members of Congress. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) even said he voted for Murkowski to “ensure that Congress keeps its responsibility to establish our nation’s environmental regulations.”

CALLING THE PEACOCKS’ BLUFF: Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is giving obstructionist senators a chance to finally take action on climate and clean energy, after they attempted to block the EPA from doing so. After holding a “thrilling”climate caucus with his members last week, the Democratic majority leader plans to bring an “impenetrable” comprehensive package of legislation to repair the damage caused by fossil fuels to our economy and our planet. Reid hopes to call the bluff of these 21 “responsible” senators, who will be proven to be fossil-fueled hypocrites if they fail to support policies that bring the swift reduction of carbon pollution that science demands. However, these peacocks are shameless. Senators like Murkowski, Brown, Richard Lugar (R-IN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ) have all supported economy-wide cap-and-trade legislation to set a price on carbon in the past. But now that there is a President, a House of Representatives, and a Senate Majority Leader in support of such policies, these climate peacocks now support “alternatives to comprehensive climate legislation [that] would not only do little to control carbon emissions, but also would cost more.”

OBAMA RUFFLES THE PEACOCKS: On Tuesday, President Obama met at the White House with “a bipartisan group of senators to discuss passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year.” After the meeting, Snowe offered support for a “carbon pricing program” on the power sector, but other Republican peacocks rejected Obama’s call for a price on carbon pollution, repeating the Newt Gingrich lie that it would be a “national energy tax.” “As long as we take a national energy tax off the table,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), “there’s no reason we can’t have clean energy legislation.” “A cap-and-trade energy tax will not sell at this time,” Murkowski pontificated. “We’ve got to find a path that does not put an added burden on American taxpayers.” These senators know they’re lying when they equate greenhouse gas pollution with “energy.” Their states are being ravaged by our overheated climate system, including the freak flooding of Nashville and the melting of Alaska’s northern-most village’s tundra. Right now, American taxpayers are paying the costs of fossil fuel pollution — the destruction of our health, our oceans, and our climate — while corporate polluters like oil giant BP rake in the profits.

Under the Radar

ECONOMY — ALAN SIMPSON REBUTS ‘PLAIN DAMN LIES’ OF CONSERVATIVES WHO SAY REAGAN DIDN’T RAISE TAXES: Known for his history of bucking conservative orthodoxy, the co-chairman of the Obama administration’s debt commission, Alan Simpson, again debunked Republican claims during a public hearing of the commission. Previously, the former Republican senator from Wyoming argued that the commission needed to consider tax increases as well as spending cuts to get long-term deficits under control. Yesterday, despite criticism from the right for his stances, Simpson went on the offensive to slap down the conservative ethos around Ronald Reagan and his supposed resistance to any and all tax increases. Simpson said that one of the “myths, and the misconceptions, and the distortions and, as one president said, the plain damn lies” promulgated by the right is that Reagan didn’t raise taxes when the situation called for it. In fact, Reagan raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office. “No peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people,” said Paul Krugman. In 1982, Reagan’s Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) was a “sharp rollback of corporate tax cuts, and a smaller rollback of individual income tax cuts.” TEFRA raised $37.5 billion per year in taxes — “almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product, making it the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.” In another example, under the Reagan administration, the Social Security Reform Act of 1983 increased the payroll tax that pays for Social Security and Medicare hospital insurance. “For many middle- and low-income families, this tax increase more than undid any gains from Mr. Reagan’s income tax cuts,” wrote Krugman in a 2004 New York Times column, but “[t]hanks to the 1983 act, current projections show that under current rules, Social Security is good for at least 38 more years.” Former Reagan economic official Bruce Bartlett elaborated, “every serious budget analyst — I mean every — knows that revenues must be part of the solution to our deficit problem. … [T]he idea that we can or even should embark on serious deficit reduction with no tax increase whatsoever is grossly immature and unworthy of consideration.” The modern conservative movement, however, continues clinging to the “grossly immature” and unrealistic idea that deficits can be reduced without tax increases.

Think Fast

The Obama administration launched a new health care reform website yesterday that provides information to the public on “the full range of public and private health insurance plans” that fits their specific circumstances. Mandated by the health reform law, the site will show users how their options “will change in coming years” as the law takes effect.

For the third time in as many weeks, Senate Republicans yesterday “successfully filibustered a bill to continue providing unemployment checks to millions of people who have been collecting benefits for more than six months.” While two Republicans voted for the measure, Democrats were one vote short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the lone Democrat to vote against the bill.

NATO and coalition forces killed in Afghanistan reached 102 in June, “the war’s highest monthly toll and approaching some of the deadliest months in the Iraq war.” The deaths included a record 59 Americans. The Pentagon attributed the increase to expanded military operations against the Taliban. “My sense is that the tough fighting will continue,” top commander Gen. David Petraeus said.

“The Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander of the Afghanistan war,” following Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation. “Gen. Petraeus is a pivotal part of our effort to succeed in Afghanistan — and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida — and he has my full confidence,” said Obama of Petraeus.

The House voted 237-192 to pass Congress’s financial regulatory reform bill last night, with only three Republicans voting to support it. “It’s about diminishing the free-enterprise system,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) of the reforms. “It’s about creating larger government that will encroach upon every single one of us and ultimately crush us.”

“BP has been trying to shut down an internal safety watchdog agency it set up under congressional pressure four years ago,” CNN reports. The Ombudsman Program “was set up to hear BP workers’ safety concerns,” but sources tell CNN that “BP doesn’t like having independent investigators pursuing those complaints.” A union representative said “some workers who complained have faced retaliation.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) told The Hill that “he would ‘absolutely’ seek to keep greenhouse gas limits alive in a House-Senate conference if the Senate approves energy legislation this summer that omits carbon provisions.” “It would be open in conference to consider because our bill has it,” said Waxman. “I would hope we can put a price on carbon.”

“A bipartisan contingent of freshman and sophomore lawmakers is pushing House appropriators to cut the salaries of lawmakers” by 5 percent — or $8,700 — each next year. The effort, led by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), would “save taxpayers $4.7 million” and “comes more than a month after Congress voted and President Barack Obama signed a measure to freeze congressional pay for 2011.”

President Obama will try to “rally new momentum” behind a push for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech today at American University School of International Service, his first on the issue while in office. The address follows “back-to-back meetings Obama had with advocates and lawmakers at the White House this week.”

And finally: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) questions Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on the “famous case of Edward v. Jacob, or The Vampire v. The Werewolf.”

Blog Watch

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and the questions that aren’t being asked.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): If more people paid attention to Afghanistan, the policy would change.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is the “opposite of a ‘wonk.'”

Beating of teenager is part of a spate of attacks against Latinos.

Only 11 of the 111 justices who have served on the Supreme Court were born in states west of the Mississippi River.

There are progressive policies that would boost the economy while reducing the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office is acting like a Washington Post columnist.

A new study shows how the mainstream press stopped calling waterboarding “torture” once the Bush administration claimed it wasn’t.

Daily Grill

“We’ve never said that [the stimulus] wouldn’t create one job.”
— House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), 6/30/10


“Government doesn’t create jobs!”
— Boehner, 12/03/09