In his latest New York Times column, "Just Do It," author and environmentalist Tom Friedman accuses Republican members of the House of Representatives - along with, to a lesser extent, President Obama and the American public - of being one of the major reasons that the Waxman-Markey bill arrived in the Senate in its current, weakened form. To be precise - and here he quotes comments made by Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign - he refers to the version that was passed last Friday on a 219-212 vote as being "too weak in key areas and way too complicated in others" and being "watered down to bring them [coal-state Democrats] on board."
(To say that the bill is weakened isn't going to matter much to the folks who will be paying higher electricity costs, higher costs on commodities, higher costs on goods and services, and on and on and on. I don't care if the CBO assessment of $175 per year or the Heritage Foundation prediction of several thousand dollars a year is correct, or whether you prefer the word "tax" or "free." More money is more money, and we're going to be spending more. How much could we be paying if the bill wasn't "watered down?")
To further buttress his argument about Republicans not supporting this bill (while, oddly, not mentioning at all that no compromise on earth could convince the 44 Democrats who voted against it to change their minds), Friedman again quotes Becker, who said "every House Republican voted against the bill and did nothing to try and improve it." I don't know what's worse: citing someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, or not thinking independently on this issue.
A few examples:
1. Becker says that every House Republican voted against the bill. Um, sorry Dan, but you're off there. Apparently you didn't check the vote tally - eight Republicans actually voted for the bill (much to the consternation of the conservative base). For your argument, I suppose that's not important.
2. Becker also says that Republicans did nothing to try and improve the bill. Again, I'm not sure at all where he's coming from on this. During the markup of the Waxman-Markey legislation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, minority members offered countless amendments in an attempt to try and make the bill better - and an overwhelming majority of them were defeated. Later, when the bill was handed off to the Rules Committee, the committee chair allowed a grand total of ONE Republican amendment to be considered on the House floor. And then Speaker Pelosi broke her pledge of allowing at least 24 hours between announcing a vote on a bill and holding the vote for members to read the bill, giving - as Minority Leader John Boehner said during his remarks on the floor - a total of five hours of debate.
I don't think the bill is in its current form because Republicans didn't offer any help. Truth be told, Democrats don't want their help - they're going to ram it through, come hell or high water, with or without Republican votes. I won't say that a more conservative columnist and the head of a more conservative think tank wouldn't tilt their explanation more to the right; it's just the nature of the game. No, my concern here is the selective memory displayed by Becker, and the reliance on those comments by someone who I thought had more sense than that.
Not everyone watched the debate or fully understands what's going on, and to read this slanted explanation leaves out much of the story.