“What appears dead for now is the House plan to cap the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.”October 4th, 2010 by Warwick Hughes
From the Wall Street Journal.
Goverments downunder are oblivious to this dominant reality.
Obama Likely to Scale Back Legislative Plans
In New Political Landscape, Incremental Approach Is in Works to Get Support for Some Proposals on Energy, Immigration
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
President Barack Obama, facing at best narrower Democratic majorities in Congress next year, is likely to break up his remaining legislative priorities into smaller bites in hope of securing at least some piecemeal proposals on energy, climate change, immigration and terrorism policy, White House officials say.
In a series of recent campaign appearances, Mr. Obama has talked up the stakes in the November election as he seeks to energize supporters and retain Democratic control of Congress. At the same time, White House officials have begun revamping their legislative strategies.
They are talking about a new, more incremental approach, championed by former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to fulfilling campaign promises on energy, immigration and on closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The new White House chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is far more steeped than Mr. Emanuel in the culture of the Senate, where comprehensive approaches to some of these issues have fared poorly. White House officials hope Mr. Rouse’s expertise will help navigate smaller measures through the chamber.
“We weren’t able to do a lot of those other things even with this Congress. That obviously calls for a new approach,” one White House official said.
Mr. Obama, looking ahead to the 2012 presidential campaign, has told people he is determined to make good on his 2008 campaign promises. And with the departure of Mr. Emanuel—who came to be mistrusted by the left—the president has a better chance to repair relations with the party’s liberal base on issues such as Guantanamo even as he reaches out to Republicans on the deficit.
Mr. Obama has hinted at this new legislative strategy while promising to press forward on climate change and energy, immigration and the Guantanamo Bay prison.
“One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we’re going to stay on this,” he said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
White House officials haven’t laid out their plan for moving energy legislation. But Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.), an author of the comprehensive climate change and energy bill that passed the House but died in the Senate, offered this scenario: Democrats should be able to muster support for establishing minimum standards for the percentage of renewable energy that utilities must use to generate electricity, he said.
The administration could push separate bills on electric vehicle incentives and building-efficiency standards it contends could have an affect on climate change. What appears dead for now is the House plan to cap the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.
A senior Democratic Senate aide said White House officials have indicated a willingness to push through piecemeal changes to immigration law, instead of a comprehensive bill that combines border controls and immigration law enforcement with a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
Under the incremental scenario, the White House would embrace Republican proposals to step up immigration law enforcement and border and port security in exchange for measures such as the DREAM Act, which would give illegal immigrant children a path to citizenship through military or public service. White House officials could add an agricultural-workers program to that bill but put off dealing with the bulk of illegal immigrants until later.
The closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison could advance in baby steps.
The Justice Department is in talks with the state of Illinois to purchase a little-used prison in Thomson, Ill., to be used as a traditional federal prison. Once the purchase is completed, White House officials would then assemble a plan, aiming to win broad Democratic support, to use the Thomson prison to house the remaining Guantanamo prisoners, a Democratic Senate official said. To do that, the president would have to show not only that the prisoners could be housed safely in the U.S. but that the White House knows what it will do with future prisoners detained on the battlefield. The lack of clarity on this and other questions has damped Democratic support in the past.
Only when Democrats are convinced would the White House try to assemble the bipartisan coalition to shut down the prison in Cuba, the official said.
But these efforts face long odds, because they don’t mesh with GOP legislative priorities and could run afoul of Democrats who say they aren’t worth the compromises necessary.
Retiring Rep. David Obey (D., Wis.), the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said nothing would get done on immigration and climate change until the economy has fully recovered, and that the incoming class of Republicans would be in no mood to compromise on economic measures. “Woe to any Republican moderate who raises his head,” he said. “The only thing they’re going to support is tax cuts.”
Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority leader John A. Boehner, said Republicans were focused on tax cuts. “Look, there’s no need to wait until after November to deal with the problems facing the American people, who are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ ” he said. He said Mr. Boehner would press to extend all of the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush. “We should be working together right now to stop the tax hikes scheduled for Jan. 1 and cut government spending.”
A senior Republican House leadership aide agreed that GOP leaders next year would be focused on far different priorities.
“Anyone focusing on baby steps like these is missing the forest for the trees,” he said.
At the same time, the aide said Republicans could foresee working with the president if he scaled back his demands in a few areas. For instance, the GOP could go along with a major push on renewable energy sources, if it is paid for with expanded offshore oil drilling, not an energy tax or Mr. Obama’s plan to cap carbon emissions and force polluters to purchase and trade carbon emissions credits.
Those opportunities could be slim. And some allies of the president are skeptical that deals could be struck that retained Democratic support while bringing in Republicans.
For example, Angela Kelley, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, said that if Republicans got the tougher border security and immigration-law enforcement measures they wanted, they would have no incentive to deal later with what Democrats want: a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers in the country.
White House aides said they were staying optimistic. “You’ve just got to wake up every day and try to shove the pig through the python, even if that means cutting it into cutlets,” one official said, paraphrasing former President Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president to face similar prospects.
Write to Jonathan Weisman at email@example.com