The experts say this one is all but assured passage -- could be on the president's desk for signature today.
When President Obama launched his GOP "charm" initiative in early March, the pundits were skeptical. Could a few intimate "schmoozes" with the president melt the layers of ice that separate the Republican faithful in the House and Senate from the president? No way, they said.
Now, in a shocking turnaround, we have the first evidence that a melting is in fact underway. A new consensus between Republicans and Democrats has formed, and it's formed around climate change.
Late Sunday night, a bleary-eyed group of House and Senate leaders emerged from a non-stop weekend “charmathon” of schmoozing with the president at the White House. Standing arm in arm, they announced that they had reached an agreement on national climate legislation and anticipated quick passage.
America to Finally Have Climate Bill and It's Called FINALLY
The bill -- called the First Innovative National Anti-warming Life-preserving Law, Yes! (or FINALLY) -- will be simultaneously introduced in both the House and Senate today and, given its strong bipartisan support, it is also expected to pass into law today. If the president signs it, April 1st, 2013 will mark the date that the nation had its first comprehensive climate plan.
If that occurs, many predict that Republicans will use this as an opportunity to wrest the environment from the Democrats and make it their own issue. As a first step, it is predicted that GOP leaders will introduce a bill to move Earth Day from April 22 to April 1. Said one Republican senatorial aid: "I can think of no more fitting day to epitomize the Republican Party's commitment to the environment than April 1st."
FINALLY Raises Some Questions
At this point the specifics of FINALLY are not yet clear. It is known that the bill will require a huge reduction in carbon emissions but there appears to be some confusion over which emissions. Most are assuming it will be emissions from the United States, but Gene Knots O'Greene, a spokesperson for the American Chamber of Congress, predicted, when asked for a comment, that the bill would require China and not the United States to lower its emissions.
"We've given way too much money to the good men and women who represent the American people in Congress for them to pass any legislation that would go against our dictates," Knots O'Greene explained.
The Chinese government had no comment when asked about this possibility. Perhaps coincidentally, a banner recently hung outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC reads: "Go ahead, make my day."
An expert on U.S.-China affairs worries that if the U.S. bill applies to Chinese rather than U.S. emissions, it may trigger an international carbon war, with the United States and China launching embedded carbon emissions at each other across the Pacific. The United Nations Environment Programme is unconcerned about the prospect of such carbon hostilities: "Sounds like business as usual to me," said an unidentified spokesperson, who asked not be identified because he did not want to be identified.
Policy analyst Rock Bottoms welcomes the action on Capitol Hill, because, he says, regardless of whether the law tackles U.S. or Chinese emissions, because things have been stalled for so long, any movement on any side is a plus.
“To mangle a blues lyric, we’ve been down so gosh-darn long on trying to achieve some measurable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, that this FINALLY looks like up to me,” Bottoms apparently told the Xinhua News Agency.
And while most anticipate that FINALLY will target power plant emissions, an official of the coal industry said the bill would be limited to carbon emissions from rising bread and not power plants.
"It makes a lot of sense," said Seymour Smolken of the American Coal Is Good and Reputable (American CIGAR) Association. "By putting an emission cap on bread-making, we address obesity and climate change at the same time. Make no mistake, there is no scientifically sound study that shows that power plants add to people's caloric intake. That should count for something."
Even Though Passage All but Certain, Lawmakers Are Hot and Cold on It
So, what happened to bring about this major political breakthrough? The While House says it is a direct result of the president's so-called charm offensive. "President Obama is a charming man, and when he charms, you get charmed," said White House spokesperson Tony Snow.
Others who were at the White House charmathon were less sanguine. Some say the breakthrough was simply the result of exhaustion.
"The entire weekend at the White House was non-stop basketball," said Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). "Watching the NCAA tournament games was OK, and having to lose to the president one-on-one was not fun but bearable, but watching slo-mo replays of Obama dunking over a crying Boehner hour after hour? Frankly, it got old."