Category Archives: Politics

First Look at the Kerry Lieberman Energy Bill: Pros and Cons

The long awaited Kerry-Lieberman climate and energy bill was finally unveiled today without a Republican co-sponsor after Lindsey Graham withdrew his support. Still, the American Power Act reflects most of the promises that had been made by the trio over the past months; both good and bad.

A strong push by electric, coal, and gas lobbies to protect their industries is heavily reflected in the bill which promotes nuclear power, “clean” coal, and offshore drilling. Also, carbon caps will be established on a rolling sector-by-sector basis which will not affect certain industries for (like manufacturing) for over 5 years, while others (like agriculture) are completely exempt. This leaves open the possibility for these sectors to produce “offsets” – or free carbon credits – which can be sold to regulated sectors in lieu of making real emissions cuts.

Here is a general overview of the high and low points contained in a draft text released by Kerry’s office today:

Pros

Cons

Carbon Cap:

The bill calls for an economy-wide emissions reduction to 95.25 percent of 2005 levels by 2013, 83 percent by 2020, 58 percent by 2030, and 17 percent by 2050.

Domestic Offsets:

Establishes a nationwide system under which sources not subject to the greenhouse gas emission reduction program may receive credits for making reductions in emissions that can be sold to and used by those subject to reduction requirements.

Coastal Drilling Opt-out:

States have the right to opt-out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores, and veto projects of nearby states.

Offshore Drilling:

Despite a smattering of new regulations, offshore drilling stays in the nation’s long-term energy plan.

Clean Energy Funding:

Establishes a Clean Energy Technology Fund, though source for funding is not explicitly outlined.

Nuclear Power:

Incentives include a new investment tax credit to promote the construction of new generating facilities, $54 billion in loan guarantees and a manufacturing tax credit to spur the domestic production of nuclear parts.

Clean Transportation:

Supports electric vehicle infrastructure; provides funding to municipal transportation emissions reduction programs.

“Clean” Coal:

Annual $2 billion for research and development of carbon capture and sequestration methods and devices.

Clean Energy Career Development:

Grants and career training in the fields of clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation.

International Offsets:

Establishes an independent advisory committee to monitor and approve international offset projects which allow US industries to continue polluting.

Customer Refund:

Two thirds of revenues from carbon trading will rebated to consumers, though not directly.

State Pre-emption:

States will not be permitted to operate their own cap-and-trade programs.

The next few weeks will undoubtedly see push-back from both the right and the left on a number of the bill’s more controversial elements. The chance of any legislation passing the Senate before the summer campaign season begins remains murky, but a strong push by the administration and civil society could mean a victory for the comprehensive, albeit less than perfect, bill.

View the full bill text here.

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Filed under Economy, Environment, Politics

Arnold’s Smart Move

I’ve been a critic of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R-CA) policies for the better part of his term as governor.  But Thursday, his support for the California Medicaid would make opponents proud.

Arnold had been a wavering, sometimes supporter of health care reform throughout the debate.  More recently, in early January, he called the legislation “health care to nowhere” despite the fact it looked very similar to reforms he proposed in California.

Thursday, the California governor came out in strong support of the health care reform law, becoming the first Republican governor to do so. “The bottom line is this: If national health care reform is going to succeed, it has to be a partnership, like with everything, a partnership between the state and the federal government,” he said.

Now for the fun part.

Arnold’s announcement came the in the same letter as the state ask from the US Department of Health and Human Services for over $4 billion a year in additional Medicaid funds.  This Medicaid waiver has been in the works for a long period of time, but with the state’s fiscal distress the waiver is larger than the state has asked for in the past. It is needed in the state too. With nearly 1/4 of the population uninsured and historically low Medicaid payments, the waiver will go a long way to help doctors and low-income individuals in the state.  The waiver would expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage to 200% federal poverty, well above the reform’s 133%.

Of course, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the Governator immediately after his move.  She needed this win, as state after state has been uncooperative to say the least in signing on to implement the reforms.

Now, with talk of changing the constitution reemerging to allow the Austrian born Republican governor to run for president, the Governator has once again returned to the spotlight as a national model for moderate conservatism.  Yey?

By Emma Sandoe

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Filed under Health Policy, Politics

Immigration: Arizona Debates Anti-Immigrant Bill

Thousands marched on Washington this past weekend to demand that the administration turn its attention to immigration reform, in order to ensure that the basic human rights of immigrant workers and their families in the United States are upheld. But, meanwhile, legislation is quietly making its way through the Arizona State Legislature which would make the status of immigrants in the state far worse than under current law.

A proposal being debated in the Arizona House today (HB 2632) contains many of the same provisions that sparked widespread protests in 2008. Undocumented immigrants would be charged with trespassing, and law enforcement officials would be required to determine the immigration status of anyone they come in contact with during an investigation.

A number of pro-immigrant groups have launched opposition campaigns to HB 2632, among them the Tucson-based Border Action Network, which deemed the legislation “the most far-reaching anti-immigrant bill ever introduced in the Arizona Legislature.” The Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference pointed out in a statement:

“We are concerned that the present language of these bills does not clearly state that undocumented persons who become victims of crime can come forward without fear of deportation. Anything that may deter crimes from being reported or prosecuted will only keep dangerous criminals on the streets, making our communities less safe.”

If signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, “the bill also would make Arizona the only state to criminalize the presence of an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants through an expansion of its trespassing law.” An identical bill (SB 1070) has already passed through the Arizona Senate, and a House vote is expected this week.

This would undoubtedly act as a foil to any kind of sweeping immigration reform that the administration may attempt to address in the coming months. The nation must now turn its eyes to Arizona; the battle for a more just immigration policy will need to be fought on a more localized level before it can be tackled by the Obama administration.

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Filed under Crime, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Politics

Obama on Climate: We Need a Carbon Cap

In a meeting with key Senators and administration officials yesterday, President Obama made one point abundantly clear: the U.S. needs to put a cap on our carbon emissions. Politico reports:

In opening remarks, according to Senators in attendance, President Obama took the idea of an energy-only bill – the preferred approach of moderate Democrats – off the table, saying he wanted a “comprehensive” bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

The President is up against a a strong contingent of Senators who have been trying to sideline a carbon cap with alternate proposals such as the one being drafted by Richard Lugar (R-IN), which would promote ever-dubious “clean coal” initiatives and nuclear power. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Lisa Mirkowski (R-AK) have also expressed their opposition to any proposal that would put a price on carbon emissions.

But the reality is that we must cap our emissions, and to do it soon. What our constituent-minded members of Congress fail to recognize is that we are the ONLY developed country that has yet to make a solid commitment to cut our carbon levels in the next few decades.

International climate negotiations are at a standstill largely because everyone is waiting for the United States to step up to the plate. Comments made by China’s top climate negotiator today, urging our Congress not to “shift the responsibility for taking more active action to other countries,” reflects a prevalent mood in the global community.

UN Climate talks, which are set to re-commence in December in Mexico, will get nowhere if the U.S. has not yet passed a comprehensive bill that includes a carbon cap.

It seems time to listen to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is urging the GOP to support a comprehensive climate and energy plan. He told the press yesterday: “I’m not going to support some half-assed reform.”

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Filed under Environment, Foreign Policy, Politics

GOP Fundraising Strategy: Fear, Ego and Reactionary Politics

A confidential GOP presentation obtained by POLITICO says it all when it comes to Republican political strategy. Nothing we didn’t already know – it’s just particularly disturbing to see it summed up so thoroughly in a garish heart-shaped flow chart.

So now its time to ask yourself: are you a “visceral giver” or a “major donor?” Well, that depends, are you a reactionary who responds to anger and fear tactics, or are you an ego-driven opportunist? Either way, the GOP has found a way to take your money. And, if you haven’t been convinced yet, Republicans have a brilliantly simple strategy to lure you to their side:

See the full presentation here.

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Filed under Politics