Chalk up another victory for the Tea Party movement. Two weeks ago, a press conference designed to announce the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman Senate cap-and-trade bill was postponed. Why? Because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is suddenly contemplating moving forward with immigration reform before he leads the charge for climate change legislation.
The sudden change in priorities upset Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – the principal Republican driver of the climate bill. Graham has been working closely for months with Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), as well as environmental and corporate special interest groups to craft a cap-and-trade energy bill that suits these disparate factions.
According to The New York Times, “Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in a sharply worded letter on Saturday that he would no longer participate in negotiations on the energy bill, throwing its already cloudy prospects deeper into doubt.”
Graham believes self-serving political interests are at the heart of the change in priorities and called Reid’s maneuver a "cynical political ploy." Democrats, including many long-term incumbents such as Reid, are facing tough re-election battles in November and they desperately need an issue to rally voters.
By leading with immigration, Reid is trying to appeal to Nevada’s important Hispanic voter bloc to improve his re-election bid.
Conversely, cap-and-trade, with its significant negative economic impact, will do little to boost Reid’s prospects. Pressing for cap-and-trade would give Reid’s opponents ample intellectual ammunition to use against the Senator during the upcoming campaign. Nevada’s economy is still reeling from the housing bubble's burst and the promises of higher energy prices from the climate bill will only delay the state’s recovery.
Global warming remains a low priority for the American public. According to Rasmussen Reports: “Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters say global warming is caused by long-term planetary trends, while only 33% blame human activity.”
These results run counter to the foundation of climate change legislation. Recall the entire basis of cap-and-trade is to lessen man’s alleged impact on the environment by reducing fossil fuel emissions such as carbon dioxide.
In another poll conducted last December, Rasmussen found “Seventy-one percent of Americans say stimulating the economy to create more jobs is a bigger priority for U.S. leaders than stopping global warming to protect the environment.”
Reid only has to look in the mirror to see the shaky state of his political future. As the point man for President Obama’s progressive agenda -- which ignores the will of the American people --Reid put himself on a collision course with the Tea Party movement.
In March, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the key note speaker at a Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight, Nevada – Reid's hometown. The event attracted a crowd of about 10,000 people and, most importantly, drew national media attention. For the Tea Party Express, a grassroots organization, Reid is at the top of its target list to defeat in the midterm elections.
Stopping cap-and-trade is a key priority for the Tea Party activists and it is at the top of the Contract from America – a top ten listing of grassroots-generated priorities for Congress. The Contract is the product of thousands of activists around the country, facilitated by Tea Party Patriots, a national grassroots organization,and serves as the policy agenda for the Tea Party movement.
With the legislative clock ticking, there is a limited amount of time to debate major legislative initiatives. Engaging in an immigration debate, Reid can score some political points with his state constituency but with cap-and-trade, it’s a lose – lose proposition for him.
Of course, it’s possible that Reid will abandon immigration and flip back to promote Obama’s cap-and-trade policy, which has the backing of big businesses such as General Electric, Duke Energy and Exelon.
Whatever path Reid takes, it is determined by the pressure wielded by Tea Party activists. Reid is considering juggling legislative priorities to save his political skin. It seems saving Reid’s Senate seat is more important than “saving the planet.”
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