Lyndon Baines Waxman

If Rep. Henry Waxman’s *American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009*, or some version close to it, actually becomes law, policy experts and historians may compare this congressman’s legislative skills to those of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

When Johnson was Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate (1953-61), he mobilized support to pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which at the time most observers said would be politically impossible. Southern Democrats were united in their opposition to giving African Americans voting, education, and housing rights. Prior legislative efforts to extend these basic rights had failed to overcome filibusters. However, Johnson personally lobbied each obstinate senator and found the perfect offer (e.g., a commitment to advance another bill, or an appropriation for a special project) to unlock the votes. While the politics weren’t always pretty, Johnson got the job done and African Americans got the rights they should have had many years before.

Rep. Waxman has taken a page from LBJ’s book to solve the climate policy puzzle. For nearly a decade, Congress watchers have said legislation to address global warming couldn’t be passed because narrow energy-related interests would trump any sense of a national interest. Waxman has turned the conventional wisdom on its head and found a formula to get his bill out of committee. His strategy has played out like this:

Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced a discussion draft in March. Environmental groups applauded while some affected companies seethed. Waxman courted undecided Democrats to find out what industries might welcome an initial allocation of free GHG permits. With encouragement from President Obama, Waxman negotiated industry-specific agreements that would bring enough votes into the “yes” column. By the time Waxman released the bill last Friday, he already had a majority of the House Energy and Commerce Committee committed in favor.

The road ahead for HR 2454 will not be easy. A sudden energy price spike could derail the current momentum. And then there’s the Senate to deal with. But Rep. Waxman’s masterful use of LBJ tactics has turned a dead-in-the-water proposition into a bill that might make it to the president’s desk.

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  1. Richard Fischer - May 20, 2009

    What! No tax on Carbon? How is this an energy bill to mitigate Global Warming? It is a gift to Big Oil and Dirty Coal. They are on their honor to voluntarily cut back on carbon emissions. The foxes will only eat drumsticks in their voluntary restraint on their appetite for greed and pollution. Yes, it was a good attempt, but the Senate will weaken it even further and in the end Coal and Oil will walk away with even more windfall profits. We will pay higher energy costs. The environment will see a minor improvement due to less travel and the gradual removal of older vehicles being sent to third world countries and Americans being forced to help out the auto industry by buying a new car every three to five years rather than every five to ten years.

  2. Ray-ray - May 20, 2009

    I agree with RFs post. The road ahead for HR 2454 will be a dead end in favor of Big Oil and King Coal. The people are just going to have to roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes to become more energy efficient at all costs. Put solar batch panels on your own roof or dig geothermal in your back yard for hot water and even run your car on waste vegatable oil like i do just to get out of the matrix of Big Energy. I saw the long lines of cars waiting to buy the last bit of overprices gas in 1973. Has anything changed since then? Not much. A hybrid car still uses the same dumb fuel that speculators like to bubble. Barack isnt going to fix it, we have to fix it.

  3. Monica - May 21, 2009

    Here at America

  4. Ian Green - May 21, 2009

    The real solution to global pollution (as Global Warming should be called) is a sustained reduction in demand for carbon based energy. I have written a paper on the solution at http://www.GreenOilSolution.org. I encourage Terrapass staff to read and hopefully help get the word out by publishing it.

  5. Joe Gorman - May 26, 2009

    Monica,
    As a West Virginia resident, my issue with coal is on the extraction end. I spent last weekend cleaning up after massive flooding in Mingo County exacerbated by mountaintop removal. Slurry and fly ash impoundments threaten thousands of lives. Close to half a million acres of millennia-old topsoil, stable ground and wind potential have already been destroyed, and Appalachia is now losing its clean and reliable water, the area’s greatest natural resource. Industry representatives, politicians and geologists expect the coal to be completely gone in twenty years.
    My criticism of America’s Power: at critical density, “clean coal” (100% sequestered CO2) would produce twice the volume of gas per year as the volume of oil we take out of the ground annually. You really think you can do that before we reach the climate tipping point?
    -Joe

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