Waxman-Markey: How US lobbying works
July 14, 2009: The landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 that narrowly passed through Congress on June 26 has come under fire by environmental critics who see the pared down measure as too little, too late. Originally proposed by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), the bill went through the wringer on the Hill, coming out with a number of amendments and omissions.
While the bill awaits a Senate vote, a recent report by campaign funding watchdog MAPLight.org has shed some light on the influence that lobbyists and special interests may have had on the outcome in the House. Using campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics, MAPLight was able to follow the money to find some interesting connections between the members’ positions and their pocketbooks.
Upwards of 200 amendments were tacked on to the final bill, voted on by members as a final package rather than individually. As MAPLight.org points out, the House members proposing pro-fossil fuel amendments were generally those receiving money from the powerful oil and gas lobby.
Rep. Raymond Green (D-TX)–who received $177,913 in campaign contributions from oil and gas lobbyists between 2003 and 2008–proposed an amendment that would slightly alter the bill’s language to allow gas refiners to receive carbon credits. Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN)–who received over $700,000 from agriculture lobbyists–introduced an amendment that would redefine “biomass” and exempt the agriculture sector from the bill’s cap on emissions.
A number of other amendments that were killed in committee also could be traced back to individual members and their ties to lobbyists. Rep. James Forbes (R-VA) proposed an amendment that would have effectively gutted the entire cap and trade bill, replacing it with a paltry grant program for research in sustainable energy, including nuclear power. Legislators voting in favor of the Forbes amendment on average received three times the amount of campaign contributions from oil and gas lobbies than those voting against it.
Amendments aside, a number of Republicans–and the 44 moderate Democrats who voted with them–flat out rejected the cap and trade bill as an omnibus tax on emissions. Following the lead of trade organizations and energy companies, many on Capitol Hill see the bill as an attack on American industry as they are forced to meet higher efficiency standards even as the economy wallows in recession.
The Right’s arguments echo those of China and India, who recently rejected attempts by the G-8 to establish a carbon reduction deal. Like the oil and gas lobby, large developing countries feel that they will be unfairly hurt by emissions caps that they believe will restrict industrial growth.
While the US Congress and the world’s leaders each attempt to eke out viable carbon reduction strategies, environmentalists warn that climate change is only worsening. Slate’s Anne Applebaum says that if leaders were really serious about carbon reductions, they would bite the political bullet and implement across-the-board carbon taxes. Applebaum is pessimistic about the upcoming climate change talks in Copenhagen, and instead insists that the dignitaries save their jet fuel and begin implementing carbon taxes at home. But for a president already facing a trillion-dollar deficit and pricey health care reform program, implementing a carbon tax does not look like a viable option.
Issued by: Take Part
Author: Trevis Kays
Issue date: July 14, 2009
Link to Article: Origin of this text