Littwin: Udall climate all-nighter as poke at Gardner, nod to Steyer
There are a few lessons we can take from the Democratic faux-filibuster all-nighter in the Senate. And you didn’t even have to watch C-SPAN2 to figure them out.
One, the Democrats have learned from Rand Paul and Ted Cruz that faux filibusters are all the rage, even if the Dems are doing theirs as a tag-team event, which sort of removes all the drama (and maybe the point).
Two, the one person watching who really mattered was hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged $100 million — $50 million of his own money — as a down payment to ensure that climate change is a major issue in the coming mid-term elections. And even by today’s standards, that’s a lot of change — climate or otherwise.
Three, Mark Udall was one of the participants in the so-called Climate Caucus. That’s no mystery. Udall was there because he’ll be a major beneficiary of the Steyer money. Because the issue gets his environment base excited. And because — and this may be the key lesson — Udall believes that this is an issue that will work against Cory Gardner, who will certainly argue that Udall isn’t sufficiently supportive of old energy, which has always supported Gardner more than generously.
This could be fun. Udall beat Gardner by a day in introducing a natural gas bill that would make it easier to export the gas to, say, Ukraine. Gardner, who loves all energy that comes from the ground, was outraged that Udall beat him to the punch — actually to the counter-punch. Udall’s bill may never make it to the Senate floor. But this is all about forcing Gardner to talk about something other than Obamacare, which, if I read the literature correctly, was exclusively the work of Udall.
The Democrats have moved, uh, cautiously — which is to say hardly at all — on climate change since the Al Gore Academy Award epoch. The last time a carbon tax bill was introduced in the Senate, 13 Democrats jumped across the aisle faster than you can say ExxonMobil.
That was then. That was before the polar vortex. And before the series of wildfire seasons. And before Superstorm Sandy. And before the really big money started being tossed around.
Polling shows a solid majority believing that the earth is warming and most of those believing that man is the cause. Where the problem comes for Democrats is when they actually try to do something about it — like, say, the carbon tax (which seems to have the word “tax” attached, which is generally a loser most places these days and certainly in Colorado. See: Amendment 66) .
This is the same problem, you’ll remember, Democrats had with health care reform. A solid majority favored it, until there was a bill. Before you knew it, there were death panels and mandates, and Obamacare had become a dirty word.
But the Senate Democrats have solved that little problem during their faux-filibuster by –get this — not having a bill. And, what’s more, they don’t intend to have a bill, which, being in the majority, they might look foolish if they didn’t introduce. Everyone knows they couldn’t get a bill through the Senate, much less the House. So just talking about the issue is apparently good enough, if they promise to keep talking about it.
You see, by not being weighed down with the burden of actually doing something, they could use all their energy just pointing out all the flat-earth, anti-science climate-deniers on the Republican side. Then you throw in, as Harry Reid did, the “oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress.” It’s just that easy.
It’s theater. Or, as Cory Gardner’s people put it, a stunt. But it’s theater/stunt that may work.
Most of the Democrats who are facing tough races this November weren’t there. Three of them — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska — are from big energy states. But, according to the Washington Post, they don’t have to worry. Steyer’s group won’t give them any money — but they have also promised not to work against them. They get a free pass.
And Udall, who is certainly now in the tough-race division, gets to shows up with a poster of Colorado wildfires in hand. Colorado may be a big energy state, but it’s a different kind of energy state — the one with all those mountains (note to Bob Beauprez: yes, those mountains).
Gardner is a little cagey on climate change. That’s how he works. The one quote I found had him saying, “I think the climate is changing, but I don’t believe humans are causing that change to the extent that’s been in the news.”
So, climate change, yes, but not all that much climate change. It’s not exactly denial. It’s more like a why-are-you-bothering-me-with-this, and it’s all the media’s fault, anyway.
In any case, the Big Energy money and the Big Enviro money will be showing up in Colorado soon. And whatever the climate does, the Udall-Gardner race, just getting started, will definitely keep heating up.
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