Less than 24 hours after yesterday's vote on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, I'm still thinking a bit about what I watched transpire on the floor of the House of Representatives.
(Sidebar: Wait! Less than 24 hours? Huh - I've actually been thinking about this for just a few hours longer than members of Congress had to even read the bill! I'm so glad Speaker Pelosi promised she would make all bills available 24 hours in advance of a vote so that the American people could read them. Perhaps she meant that over the course of her entire speakership, she would collectively make all bills available a total of 24 hours in advance - 5 or 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there.)
First, I would be willing to put good money on the table that most of the 219 members who voted for the bill did so despite the wishes of their constituents - not because of them. As a result, I think that over the next several days you're going to see a lot of outrage and some potential backlash against these folks. Already, several groups to which I belong have started posting the telephone numbers and contact information for the eight Republicans who voted in favor of the bill. One of them, Mark Kirk of Illinois (a potential candidate for Senate in 2010), is apparently having a town hall meeting in his district today; I would love to be a fly on the wall for that one.
Next, I think John Boehner had one of his finest moments as Minority Leader when his turn came to speak on the House floor yesterday. As one of the privileges for being Minority Leader, the time that he is yielded in order to speak really isn't confined just to the one or two minutes he received; the Speaker, Majority Leader, and Minority Leader are able to speak a bit longer. Boehner started and immediately attacked the addition of a 300-page section into the Waxman-Markey bill at 3:00 yesterday morning and - saying that the American people have a right to know what their congressional representatives are voting on - practically started to go page-by-page through the entire addition. Roughtly 20 minutes in to his comments, Henry Waxman (Democrat Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and lead sponsor of the bill) made a parliamentary inquiry as to whether there was any maximum time that Boehner would be allowed to speak; much to his chagrin, he was told it was the tradition of the House that the chamber would listen to the Leader's remarks in their entirety. It was not the answer Waxman had wanted. And when he tried to object because of how much time Boehner was taking, Boehner responded with a classic Boehner line which you have to actually watch to fully appreciate.
Steve Milloy at his Green Hell blog posted a video clip of this classic moment, which had initially been posted by Boehner's office on YouTube. Here, for your enjoyment, is this great 90-second moment in congressional history:
So what next? Well, it's off to the Senate - more than likely, Barbara Boxer (chairman of the Environment and Public Works) will have first crack at it. The Senate is going to be a much more difficult place for the bill since the House - 100 much more independent minded folks, regardless of party affiliation. Timing is also up in the air; all Harry Reid has committed to is bringing it up for a vote later this year - which could be next month or at 11:59 on New Year's Eve. With that in mind, there's still a lot of work to be done - both in the Senate and by the general public.
What will you do in this time ahead? Will you leave it to the Senate and trust they will do the right thing, or will you educate yourself - about climate change, about the interests of your district and state, and about what your senator will be doing when it comes time to cast their vote?