Friday, June 26, 2009, a disastrous piece of legislation narrowly was approved in the House of Representatives. HR 2454, also known as the Waxman Markey Bill, or more commonly known as Cap and Trade, was approved by a vote of 219 to 212.
Clark County Conservative outlined Representative Brain Baird’s YES vote on the bill here. However, much anger and dismay is being expressed towards 8 Republican Representatives from across America that crossed over to vote YES, giving the Democrats the needed votes to approve the measure.
Brent Boger, Vancouver, Washington Senior City Attorney and Republican State Committeeman for Clark County submitted the following analysis as to why the 8 may have voted as they did,
When I looked over the list of the 8 Republicans who voted for the cap and trade, cap and tax bill, my impression was that most of them had tough districts that could easily flip Democrat and they voted for their political survival. Spending a couple of hours researching this, my impression appears largely true.
We should not take issue with the eight just because they failed to vote the same as the 168 Republicans who voted against the bill. The calls should address why their reasons for voting for the bill are wrong. Their votes were not in the interest of: (1) sound public policy; (2) their political future; or (3) their constituents.
Most important of these reasons is the evident collapse in the global warming so-called scientific consensus. The overall vote was driven by dogma and a desire to raise revenue to support Obama’s reckless spending. See Friday’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal that discusses the signs of collapse in the international scientific consensus:
“The collapse of the ‘consensus’ has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth’s temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124597505076157449.html.
I am not a scientist. Nor are any of the eight congressmen scientists–and Al Gore’s journalism degree does not give him much in the way of credentials on this issue either. My own training has been in economics and the law. Perhaps my economics training is what makes me particularly note that absent from the discussion on climate change is any serious discussion of cost and benefits. Even if global warming is man-made, might it not be more cost-effective and might we all live better if we deal with its effects rather than pass legislation like King Canute decreed (who was thought to be so great he could command the tides).
There are other reasons besides the merits of the bill that might have driven the votes of the eight. My approach to political analysis is to understand political behavior. I mostly focus on the electorate’s behavior, but I also try to understand why elected officials vote as they do. I think I can explain their votes based on three factors.
1. They think the vote was better for them politically.
Obama carried seven of the eight districts and Kerry three of the eight over Bush. None of the districts are safe Republican seats. One district is represented by Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Army. At least seven of the eight members of Congress could have reasonably concluded that their vote was to their political benefit.
No one likes a politician who abandons principle and cravenly votes solely on their political interests but certainly it is something that should be considered. Yet 27 Republican members of Congress who voted against the bill also represent districts Obama won. Most of these 27 members, however, represent districts that only barely went for Obama and can be expected to flip back our way in the next election. A Republican Congressman representing a district Obama won by 2% would be expected to look at their prospects for survival differently than one who represents a district Obama won by 14%, like Reichert. Three of the five represent districts Obama won by more than 10% (including Reichert). Three represent one of the six districts in the country won by John Kerry in 2004 currently represented by a Republican in the House: Reichert, Mike Castle of Delaware and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Castle and Kirk could take the Senate seats abandoned by our current President and Vice President next year.
If the Republican members voted based on political calculation, they should note the collapsing scientific and understand that what looks popular now may look foolish in the future.
There is another, less cynical way to look at their votes but related to political self-interest discussed next.
2. They are representing their districts, or they think they are.
Seven of the eight wayward Republicans represent suburban districts and seven of the eight had to run ahead of our national ticket to win. Generally suburban districts still favor Republicans and conservative positions on many issues. One general area suburban voters depart from general Republican views is on environmental issues (or perhaps better expressed as environmental dogma). Unfortunately, many suburban voters come to these positions not from any serious analysis but simply reacting to the relentless global-warming drumbeat emanating from the mainstream media and pseudo-scientists. As noted above, the dogma is starting to collapse, but word of that has not reached enough of their constituents yet.
The eight should have considered that what they think their constituents like now will change when prices go up to pay for the hidden tax, small business fail because of the legislation, and we get a couple of cold winters. (It is interesting to note that only Bono-Mack’s Palm Springs district has a more pleasant winter climate than Dave Reichert’s wintertime cold and rainy Washington district).
3. They really believed the bill was good public policy.
Five of the eight members had fairly high ratings from the League of Conservation Voters (a somewhat dogmatic, though not always, environmental political organization). Thus, their votes on this bill are not out-of-line with the positions they had had taken in the past. This could be because they really believe in these environmental issues or for the two reasons listed above. In particular, I would like to point out Chris Smith of New Jersey who initially was elected to Congress on a very pro-life platform but has otherwise taken pretty moderate positions. Some in the evangelical Christian community have also taken general positions justifiably protective of the environment but I am not sure they are embracing global warming dogma. Though I sharply disagree with Smith on his vote, I still have a great deal of respect for him as a politician who stands on principle.
I wonder whether the members understand that the scientific consensus is less of a consensus now than it was. Have they noted the trouble the Labour Party government has had in getting a global warming bill through the Australian Senate? Do they know many in Europe are growing skeptical about the validity of the science behind climate change-theory? Have they considered a cost-benefit analysis and that should be expected of all members of Congress, especially Republicans?
What about the high number of Democrats who voted against the bill? Lost in our focus on the eight Republicans are the 44 Democrats who voted against the bill. 28 of these Democrats represent districts won by John McCain and 36 represent 2004 Bush districts. Not surprisingly, we find among the remaining 8 Democrats those who voted against the bill because it didn’t go far enough like Dennis Kucinich (OH), Peter DeFazio (OR), and Fortney Stark (CA). The remaining Democrat “no” votes come from Democrat industrial along with a couple heavily-minority agricultural districts especially impacted by the bill. Do these Democrats see something coming that the eight Republicans do not?
We should also not get carried away in our criticism of the eight. Remember that the eight Republicans have been with us on important issues. For example all 8 voted against the Obama stimulus package. So unless we are willing to say that Dennis Kucinich is better than Dave Reichert because Kucinich voted right on this bill and Reichert did not, we probably ought to cut them some slack. I am pleased that Reichert is still in Congress and not the angry left’s Darcy Burner. From what I know of the Democrat challengers to the other seven districts, I would expect we are better off that the Republicans are there as well.
I conclude with the political situation each of the 8 Republicans find themselves in. While I understand their votes and would probably still support them, I am disappointed.
David Reichert represents a traditionally Republican suburban district that has trended noticeably to the Democrats over the last 10-15 years with both Obama and Kerry winning the district–Obama by 14%. The district is composed of eastern King and Pierce counties. Republicans have been largely wiped-out in legislative seats in the King County portion of the district–holding only the 5th, and two seats in the 31st. The district has an environmentalist tilt. According to the National Journal, Reichert has had a moderate voting record that is only a bit more conservative than average. He does have fairly high ratings from the League of Conservation voters.
2008: Reichert (R) 53%, Burner (D) 47%; Obama (D) 56%, McCain (R) 42%
2006: Reichert (R) 51%, Burner (D) 49%
2004: Reichert (R) 52%, Ross (D) 47%; Kerry (D) 51%, Bush (R) 48%
Bono-Mack is Sonny Bono’s widow and was the only Republican to vote for cap and trade in committee. She represents a district that includes Palm Springs and fast-growing LA suburban areas in Riverside County’s Moreno Valley. I personally experienced the district’s environmentalist tilt during my time on the staff of California Governor George Deukmejian. The district voted strongly for Bush in 2004 but went to Obama in 2008. Bono-Mack has a moderate voting record but is clearly more right than left. Her ratings from the League of Conservation voters have not been high.
2008: Bono-Mack (R) 58%, Bornstein (D) 42%; Obama (D) 52%, McCain (R) 47%
2006: Bono (R) 61%, Roth (D) 39%
2004: Bono (R) 67%, Meyer (D) 33%; Bush (R) 56%, Kerry (D) 43%
Mike Castle is Delaware’s lone Congressman. Prior to being elected to Congress in 1992, he served as the state’s governor for eight years. He is being mentioned as a potential candidate for the US Senate against Joe Biden’s son, Beau, next year. Castle has been ahead in the polling. Delaware is a state dominated by New Castle County, which is effectively part of suburban Philadelphia. The state recently has been reliably Democratic giving comfortable margins to the Democrats for president since 1992. Castle’s record has been moderate and perhaps slightly more left than right. The League of Conservation voters gives Castle high ratings.
2008: Castle (R) 61%, Nagel (D) 38%; Obama 62%, McCain 37%
2006: Castle (R) 57%, Spivack (D) 39%
2004: Castle (R) 69%, Donnelly (D) 30%; Bush 46%, Kerry 53%
Mark Kirk represents a suburban Chicago district along the north shore of Lake Michigan. Kirk is likely to run for the US Senate next year and runs well in the polls in Obama’s home state. The north shore suburbs have been trending against the GOP since the 1990′s and both Kerry and Obama won Illinois 10–Obama in a home state blowout. The Chicago suburbs are not the same place they were in 1964 when the suburban “collar” counties stuck with Goldwater in the Johnson landslide–including local resident at the time and “Goldwater Girl” Hillary Rodham. According to the National Journal, Kirk’s voting record is middle-of-the-road: slightly right on economic issues and slightly left on social issues. He has high ratings from the League of Conservation voters.
2008: Kirk (R) 53%, Seals (D) 47%; Obama 61%, McCain 38%
2006: Kirk (R) 53%, Seals (D) 47%
2004: Kirk (R) 64%, Goodman (D) 36%; Kerry 53%, Bush 47%
McHugh, NY 23
Obama nominated New York Congressman John McHugh to be Secretary of the Army and he is awaiting Senate confirmation. McHugh has had a clearly right-of-center voting record but is generally considered a moderate. He has high ratings from the League of Conservation Voters. McHugh has had no problem at the polls even as his district was going for Obama. In a more normal political year, the district can be expected to go Republican at the presidential level. McHugh is the only congressman of the 8 defecting Republicans whose district is not suburban–it is rural and small city in the far north of upstate New York.
2008: McHugh (R) 65%, Oot (D) 35%; Obama (D-WF) 52%, McCain (R-C) 47%
2006: McHugh (R-Ind-C) 63%, Johnson (D-WF) 37%
2004: McHugh (R-Ind-C) 71%, Johnson (D) 29%; Bush (R-C) 51%, Kerry (D-WF) 47%
Leonard Lance was elected to Congress in 2008. He represents a suburban New Jersey district that runs across northern New Jersey from almost the Newark Airport on the east to just across the Delaware River from the Leigh Valley area of Pennsylvania on the west. The district was designed to be Republican, which explains its contorted boundaries. Even with these boundaries, former Congressman Mike Ferguson only barely held on to the district in 2006 and the district went narrowly for Obama in 2008. Against Ferguson’s 2006 opponent, Lance had an easier time, running well ahead of McCain. As a newly elected member of Congress, Lance has not yet established a record.
2008: Lance (R) 50%, Stender 42%; Obama (D) 50%, McCain (R) 49%
2006: Ferguson (R) 49%, Stender (D) 48%
2004: Ferguson (R) 57%, Brozak (D) 42%; Bush (R) 53%, Kerry (D) 47%
Frank LoBiondo represents a south Jersey district that includes Atlantic City, exurban areas near Philadelphia, some small industrial cities and agricultural areas. The district went for Gore and Obama by about the same nearly 10% margin but Bush managed to eek out a win over Kerry in 2004. LoBiondo has had little trouble holding this marginal district. According to the National Journal, LoBiondo has had a generally moderate voting record more conservative on social issues than on economic issues. LoBiondo has high ratings from the League of Conservation voters.
2008: LoBiondo 59%, Kurkowski (D) 39%; Obama (D) 54%, McCain (R) 45%
2006: LoBiondo (R) 62%, Thomas-Hughes (D) 36%
2004: LoBiondo (R) 65%, Robb 33%; Bush (R) 50%, Kerry (D) 49%
Chris Smith is the only one of the eight who represents a district that John McCain won. Smith was elected to Congress in 1980 with prior experience as the Executive Director of New Jersey Right to Life. His record is generally moderate but more conservative on social issues. Smith has long had high ratings from the League of Conservation Voters. The district straddles the invisible line between north Jersey (which watches New York television) and south Jersey (which watches Philadelphia television). It is getting more distant suburban growth (exurban) from both Philadelphia and New York, which probably explains why it is, rare for the northeast, trending Republican.
2008: Smith (R) 66%, Zeitz (D) 33%, McCain (R) 52%, Obama (D) 47%
2006: Smith (R) 66%, Gay (D) 33%
2004: Smith (R) 67%, Vasquez (D) 32%, Bush (R) 56%, Kerry (D) 44%
(The information above comes from Congressional Quarterly and the Michael Barone’s Almanac of American Politics)
I would like to add to Brent’s analysis that European countries that jumped headlong into such “Green” legislation years before we in the Unites States have are seeing the folly of their ways. An April 9, 2007 Washington Post article, Europe’s Problems Color U.S. Plans to Curb Carbon Gases outlines the negative affect such plans had on European Country’s.
A brochure has been assembled outlining the negative impact on Jobs such moves has had in Europe and is available in a pdf file HERE.
Our Representatives should have been aware of such economic affects before they voted for such a piece of legislation. I will be curious to see how, if at all, each justifies their YES vote on such a monstrous bill.