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Climate Vote Shows White House Still Really Knows How To Work The Hill

27 Jun 2009
Posted by Stan Collender

You don't have to like the climate bill that was approved last night by the House to be impressed by the White House's ability to get it passed. The bill 219-212, with eight Republican votes in favor.

The margin was narrow but isn't the big story.  The ultimate political value for the White House is that it was able to get the bill adopted at all but still allow 44 Democrats to vote against it.  Not asking Democrats to walk a political plank will pay huge dividends later this year and in the 2010 elections because those members who needed to vote against it were able to do so.  And, of course, the White House didn't have to use up huge favors in the process.

Having voted against the administration's climate change bill on the record means that at least some of theese House Democrats will be able to vote for what emerges from a House-Senate conference later in the year.  Therefore, the chances of a climate bill being enacted this year is now much greater than it was 24 hours ago.

But the bigger story is that the White House once again has demonstrated an excellent ability to get Congress to go along with the things it wants.  In fact, the climate change bill is the latest in what has now been a steady series of legislative victories for the Obama administration.

As I said in April...this is very impressive and has to be a cause of real concern for congressional Republicans.  It also has to make the GOP leadership wonder whether its "all-in" strategy is really that smart.  Voting against everything and not participating in the process really only works when you win once in a while and your take-my-ball-and-go-home position is validated.  You make yourself irrelevant if you refuse to play and the game goes on without you.

I watched this happen many times during my years as a staffer on the House Budget Committee.  Led by Rep. Delbert Latta from Ohio, the Republican members of the committee always refused to vote for the budget resolutions the Democrats were considering.  That forced the chairman, Bob Giaimo from Connecticut, to work more closely than he would have otherwise done with the liberals on the committee to get the votes he needed to approve the budget resolution for the coming year.


When Giaimo got those votes, which he always did, the GOP members of the committee couldn't do much more than hold their ball and watch the game from the sidelines.

Thirty years or so later, the GOP now seems to be following Latta's game plan.  In the meantime, the Obama administration is repeatedly scoring.



I'm confused by your claim that "the White House didn't have to use up huge favors in the process" and "the White House once again has demonstrated an excellent ability to get Congress to go along with the things it wants."

President Obama insisted during the campaign that it was important that the carbon credits be auctioned off. Yet as a result of the compromises in the bill, the vast majority are not auctioned off. The bill contains far more corporate welfare and less emissions reductions than the President insisted.

Do you think that what results from conference will be closer to what the President insisted he wanted, or do you think that the White House was never that serious about what sounded like preconditions?

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