THE VINE JUNE 10, 2009
Over at Grist, Dave Roberts has a smart piece on how health care reform has surpassed energy and climate change as Barack Obama's number-one domestic priority—and what that shift means for the prospects of getting both items done.
The bottom line is that a big climate/energy bill that reduces carbon emissions is never going to amass 60 votes in the Senate unless Obama decides to put some muscle behind it. That would mean working closely with lawmakers, as he's currently doing on health care, according to Matt Bai's recent New York Times Magazine piece. And, just as importantly, it would mean rallying public opinion around action on global warming—an issue that tends to sit low on most people's list of concerns unless it's popping up in the news.
A few weeks ago, Nancy Sutley of the White House Council on Environmental Quality told The Guardian that the president was willing to "intervene directly" and stake his political popularity on getting a climate bill through Congress. Yet, apart from a few scattered speeches on energy, as well as a (reportedly effective) White House meeting with House Dems who were skittish about the Waxman-Markey climate bill, Obama has mostly stood aloof. Maybe he wants to finish health care reform first—where the legislative soil is better tilled—and is gambling that a big victory there will generate momentum for major action on climate. Either way, this is one of the big open questions in the ongoing energy debate.