Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eight Republicans Vote For Democrats’ “Insane” Massive Energy Tax Bill; Illinois Republican Mark Kirk Takes Heat

Last Friday, June 26, the US House passed the Democrat Waxman-Markey energy tax bill, often referred to as “cap and trade.” The way Democrats rammed the bill through, with massive changes made at the last minute just as the voting began, is almost as outrageous as the substance of it, although, since no one read the bill before it was passed, no one can be quite sure exactly what’s in it (link, link).

But this is just a bill, not a law, as the Senate has not voted yet, and many commentators think passage of this bill in anything like its House version is unlikely. Nevertheless, the substance of the bill and the way it was passed stinks all the same. Iain Murray wrote (link) at The Corner blog at National Review Online that “this is a gross abuse of the Parliamentary process and represents nothing less than contempt for the people of the United States of America.”

As for the substance, it’s a massive new tax on energy in the middle of a recession. Charles Krauthammer’s take (link):

This bill is so bad it's almost indescribable…. In principle, it's a carbon tax. And to do it — which is probably the largest tax in American history — in the middle of a recession is quite insane.

But secondly, even if you accept that we have to do a carbon tax because there is an emergency in the climate …. [the bill] involves so many concessions to constituencies, to coal companies in states, to all kinds of favorite constituencies, that it's a mess, and it undermines the idea of a cap and trade, a system in which the market will regulate carbon emissions. As a result, in the final analysis, it gives money and carbon credits to utility companies on the condition that [they do] not raise rates on people's electricity. But if that is the case, then it undermines the entire argument in favor of this, which is to induce the reduction in the use of energy. If there are no rises in rates, there's no incentive to reduce emissions, and the whole purpose of the bill is undermined.

The bill passed by a margin of 7 votes, with 44 Democrats voting against it and 8 Republicans voting for it. Congressman Mark Kirk, from Illinois’ liberal North Shore, which extends from Chicago’s northern suburbs to the Wisconsin border, was one of the eight Republicans (link), and, according to one commentator, was the only one of the eight not from either the east or west coast.

Why did Kirk vote for this bill, which, along with every other Congressman, he didn’t even read? Greg Hinz at Crain’s Chicago Business writes (link):

Congressman Mark Kirk is strongly defending his vote …. [He] said he tied his vote to national security, … that raising the price of energy somewhat will reduce American reliance on "Middle Eastern dictatorships." "I would have preferred a bill that focused more on energy independence," the Highland Park Republican said, … [but said that] the version put to a vote by Democratic leaders will force the United States to diversify American energy production.

Well, yes, achieving energy independence is an urgent national matter, but if utility energy prices are prevented from rising and we don’t reverse the Democratic freeze on developing new supplies of oil, gas, and nuclear power and using more coal, won’t we still use about as much foreign oil?

This bill amounts to a massive new tax by Democrats underneath the ruse of environmental protection and energy independence, the additional revenues from which would only help fuel their destructive spending orgy.

There was a rally at Kirk’s office today to protest his vote. Illinois bloggers John Ruberry of Marathon Pundit (link) and Anne Leary of Backyard Conservative (link) were there and cover it at their blogs.

Sensible big-tent Republicans understand that Republican legislators will not always vote in lock-step on every issue, especially if they represent liberal-leaning districts. But sometimes Republicans in such districts feel intimidated, lose nerve, and vote with Democrats rather than educate voters on the merits of their position. But when even 44 Democrats couldn’t vote for this bill, Kirk’s vote is hard to understand, and very disappointing.

John M Greco