Many liberals were upset with Barack Obama for not using Tuesday's Oval Office address to pressure the Senate into passing a cap-and-trade system or carbon tax. But may he have a "secret plan" in the works, as some are suggesting?
The Senate does not have the votes to price carbon right now. This is pretty inflexible, and it's why Obama chose not to build up false hope that could blow back and endanger any energy bill. A bill with the dreaded "cap-and-tax" would crush the possibility of convincing a few moderate Republicans to vote for it, leaving 59 Democratic votes to work with (and plenty of Democratic senators don't want to take that vote, either). So at best, it would come one vote short of breaking a filibuster.
(The Senate is a horrible, horrible legislative body, where old rich ninnies do absolutely nothing, six years at a time, while human civilization burns and drowns, and so on. But let's not even get into that. It's fun Friday!)
So what are the chances of a rumored "secret plan" for getting a carbon pricing mechanism through the Senate eventually — as reported in recent days by the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and New York's John Heilemann — actually existing? Here's Heilemann:
The hard-eyed political read on Obama's stance was that, in effect, he was declaring cap-and-trade dead in the Senate. And that may be true. But an equally cynical assessment is that the White House is hewing to a crafty, even Machiavellian (i.e., Emanuelian) strategy to enact an energy bill: Lacking the 60 votes necessary for cap-and-trade, the administration plans to get behind a more modest conservation measure in the Senate, then push for a carbon pricing mechanism during the conference committee merger with the House bill - and do so during a lame-duck session after the midterms, when victorious Democrats will find it easier to make a tough vote and losing ones will be freed of political constraints.
Leaving aside the Political Ethics Debate, there's a bit of a really really big super gaping hole with this plan, unless we're missing something obvious? It involves basic math: Carbon pricing would be filibustered now, since there are only 59 Democratic votes. So carbon pricing would also be filibustered after the elections and before the new Congress comes in, because there will still only be 59 Democratic votes.
And do not even think for a nanosecond — because we can tell that you're starting to think it, you naughties! — that perhaps one of those moderate Republican lady senators from Maine can be persuaded to switch sides for a 60th vote. That never works! Stop thinking it! They're teases. It's what they do.