The energy vote today - and the message the Roadblock Republicans risk sending far and wide across the globe - is a gigantic reminder why we're still one election away from bringing the biggest and boldest change to Washington.
Here we are, this morning, Democrats in Congress poised to deliver on one of the most ambitious overalls of our energy policy in decades - the first meaningful increase in fuel efficiency standards in thirty years which we scratched and clawed to achieve; closing the SUV loophole; trading egregious tax giveaways to oil companies to instead fund green energy projects and extend a tax credit for renewable energy for four years; a renewable energy standard in there, mandating that utilities get 15% of their power from renewables.
But here we are this morning - waiting to vote - and still we're counting votes - because it really does take sixty votes in the Senate to get anything accomplished.
Why is the world watching? Because right now in Bali, representatives of more than 180 nations are meeting to chart a course toward a new global agreement to control climate change. The world knows no agreement can succeed without the United States. While the president has acknowledged global warming as a problem, he has refused to commit the United States to mandatory emissions reductions, or to embrace a global target for halting the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere before they double from pre-industrial levels. This week the leaders in Bali saw the Senate EPW committee pass a landmark bipartisan bill to get real about climate change. That's big news. But the world wants to see again this morning what the Senate will do on this energy bill - because everyone knows that for too long, American inaction has been used both as an excuse and a green light for all the world's polluters to continue behavior that will ultimately threaten life on Earth.
And everyone of us should know by now that to build the kind of big, enduring change necessary in a race against climate change where time most assuredly is not on our side, we will need to end once and for all the obstructions from the party still stuck in the last century, the Bush Republican Party.
So, here's the deal - right now we're counting votes - and tonight I hope to be boarding a flight - oh, a good twenty hours in the air - to get to Bali and deliver a simple message: the United States is ready to lead - now. Things are changing. George Bush is out of step now with mayors, Governors - and the Congress. And the days are waning in his presidency. Yes, the United States is ready to get back in the business of leadership.
Republicans have a choice: they can join with us in trying to face the challenges of the 21st century, or they can go the way of the Whigs. It's that simple. Sure, the procedures and rules of the Senate gives them the tools to try and block things, but every time they choose to do so, they're betting on the past not the future Americans so desperately want to see: a future of clean air, clean water, safe renewable fuels, and an America that leads on combating climate change. We'll know a lot more which way we're headed in an hour or two. I'll keep you posted.
update:Well, the final vote was 53-42 for cloture. I'll spare you the all too familiar Senate-speak, but you know what it really means: once again, the Roadblock Republicans throw up the procedural roadblocks to getting big things accomplished. This cloture vote is the 58th of this Congress, only 4 short of the record for a two-year Congress.
We'll keep moving on this and yes we will pass an energy bill next week, albeit not as bold as we'd like, but it's increasingly clear that the Bush Republicans are still insistent on clinging to the past rather than doing what it takes to secure the future. And parties that try to hold on to the past tend to become part of the past - if we get off our butts and go to work.
When I'm meeting with leaders from the rest of the world in Bali, though, I will make sure to convey the true feelings of Americans. I will remind them that a few weeks ago five Midwestern states, including Illinois, Kansas and Michigan, announced their intent to cap their greenhouse gas emissions and launch a regional emissions trading program. They are following the lead of 10 Northeastern states and six Western states led by California. Together these states include more than half of the U.S. economy. Twenty-seven companies - including General Electric, General Motors, DuPont, Caterpillar, oil, mining, and utilities - have joined with leading environmental groups to ask Congress to act swiftly to impose economy-wide limits to reduce emissions. I will make sure they know about the landmark climate science bills and fuel efficiency bills we passed out of the Commerce Committee. And I will tell them how just last night, I was talking to John Warner - the legendary Republican Senator from Virginia - who worked in the EPW Committee with Barbara Boxer and Joe Lieberman to pass an historic bill. John said, "I'm glad you're going to Bali - tell them what we're doing here."