Sunday, December 27, 2009

Health Care vs. Climate

Today's Politico story about climate legislation was pretty odd.  Page one told a straightforward story consistent with the lead (hey, I'm not a reporter; I can spell it that way, right?):
Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year.
And we get quotes from Landrieu, Pryor, Conrad, Bayh: exactly who you would expect.  But then we get to page two, and Politico reminds us that there are actually three different bipartisan bills emerging, with Graham, Collins, Lugar, and Voinovich all involved.

Now, I'm not going to predict that Republicans are going to support a bipartisan climate bill.  I don't know.  But I do think that the environment is a policy area with a much less pronounced partisan split, on both sides.  One of the underreported things about health care was that, when it came down to it, most if not all Senate Democrats really did want a bill.  Now, that might have been a political calculation and not an actual belief in the issue, but I do think that universal health care is very, very, close to the heart of the Democratic Party.  Climate change,  I think, is less of a core issue.  On the other side, the idea of guaranteeing health care for all -- a right to health care -- is correctly seen as a major expansion of governmental responsibility, and is thus close to the core of what Republicans tend to be against. 

Climate change is different.  For those who accept the scientific consensus on global warming, climate is a technocratic, not an ideological, issue.  And mainstream conservatives have no inherent problem with big government when it comes to areas in which they believe the government should act, such as national defense. 

Now, of course, the Palin wing of the GOP rejects the scientific consensus.  And the Gingrich rejectionist strategy Republicans are following goes down the Palin path, not the one that Graham and the others are clearing.  I don't want to predict the results.  But I do think that opposition to universal health care is much more central to the Republican Party, now and for many decades, then is opposition to environmental action.  If page two of the Politico story is correct and five to fifteen Senate Republicans do want to make a deal, then we're going to get a bill in 2010.  If not, then I think the "moderate" (actually, in many cases, anti-legislation) Democrats will probably succeed in killing the bill.  In other words, on this issue it's the Republicans, not the moderate Democrats, who are the real question mark.

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