Waxman-Markey Passes the House 219-212!

Cross-Posted from: HERE

Wow, one hell of a day! I was in DC for most of the hours of the day with many other youth(and a few older) climate activists rallying around climate legislation with the chant “we want more!”, to having a presence in the halls of Congress with the green shirts, to engaging Congressmen as they walked to the gallery, to attending the gallery to watch the vote. Time for an outburst…MAN AM I PUMPED. Here are the results of the vote.

I’m pretty exhausted, but I want to make a few comments and observations before passing out. I will add more depth to some of these later on.

1. Congressman Frank Kratovil from District 1 in Maryland voted yes for the bill, and we very much owe him our thanks. I will be writing a separate post thanking the Congressman for his “yes” vote. To provide a tiny bit of background, District 1 in Maryland, is heavily Republican, it went 60-40 for McCain in 2008. However, Kratovil won as a Democrat taking the seat for the first time in a couple decades. I worked very hard in 2008 for his election because I saw that district as the one vote in the state I could tip towards a climate bill in 2009. I led a lobby meeting with a group of activists last week that met with his chief of staff and we made convincing arguments for him to support the bill. Kratovil was on the fence up until the last few hours, and ultimately cast his vote and helped tip the scales in our favor. I know the calls into his office were heavily against this bill, but he took the tough vote, and not very many politicians do that.

2. As I said I was in the gallery watching the floor vote. Dennis Kucinich held his “no” vote until the vote threshold crossed 218 with a minute left. As you may or may not know, the super-liberal Kucinich had stated he wanted to make a statement that the bill was woefully inadequate by voting no. Why then, did he hold his vote until the bill has certainly passed? Because passing this piece of legislation for the good things it does is far more important that defeating it because of its flaws, and despite his bluster Kucinich knew it.

3. We need more. That was a true and prevailing theme at the rally today, and it was spot in. Although I have been a proponent of the legislation because I think it does far more good than harm and has some great provisions that some in the environmental community are determined to ignore, when I have made demands to representatives they have always been for a stronger bill. This is a mediocre bill. The biggest weakness BY FAR is the short term target, 17% below 2005 levels doesn’t cut it for an adequate global treaty. We’ve got to make it stronger. I think the energy efficiency standard should be better, not just from an emissions reduction standpoint but a practicality standpoint. We can do A LOT better than the 5-8% energy efficiency standard we have with existing technology easy. There are other concerns I have which I won’t go on too much of a rant on right now.

4. I do however need to stress a blunt fact. This bill barely passed as is. That’s the state of this political system until the 2010 elections. If we want a stronger bill, or even to hold the line on the current bill, we’re going to need a much stronger and better coordinated grassroots effort in the Senate, which is a minefield. I’ll probably rant more about this later, but since there’s no viable alternative, instead of acting like Friends of the Earth and trying to kill our only climate legislation, go after your Senator hard on the need for THIS bill to be better. Don’t go off on a rant about imaginary simple carbon taxes(because the tax code is so simple and corporations never abuse it) that will not happen because no one except those lost in a political fantasyland and Exxon Mobil support them.

Last, I know(unapologetically) that I have a more positive view(meaning a C grade) on Waxman-Markey than many of my peers that I work with on this stuff. These differences thus far have not become an issue since we’re always asking for the bill to be strengthened anyways. I can tell you all this much about this vote today. It was a historic vote. The first time climate legislation was voted on in the house, and the first time it passed out of a chamber in the Congress. There’s a long way to go to get something useful out of the Senate, and I got the distinct feeling in the final hours leading up to the vote that many of those wearing the green shirts with me today did not want to see the battle end here. Despite the bill’s flaws, everyone was nervous as hell when the votes were being tallied up. When the bill passed, the many green shirts in the gallery broke into a resounding applause, hooted and hollered, and high-fived.

Just like Dennis Kucinich, throughout the day many of those that I’ve fought for climate legislation with for as long as I’ve been doing activism arrived at the same place I did back in May. This legislation was the only train leaving the station for a long time, it has it’s problems, but it does far more good than harm. I have my fingers crossed that more of the progressive community will recognize this, take to the streets and the phone lines and the halls of the Senate buildings, and give America and the world the strong climate legislation it needs. I know that’s what I’ll be working for in these upcoming months.

7 Responses to “Waxman-Markey Passes the House 219-212!”


  1. 1 Alyssa Jun 27th, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Fantastic post! Here’s a possible senate breakdown to get you started: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=ribbxyTf-3tbTUXR0h2QDpA
    I watched the whole thing on C-SPAN (sans having to take a break during Boehner’s mini filibuster). We have a lot of educating to do.

  2. 2 Anna Keenan Jun 27th, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Great post Matt, except for the one snipe at ‘”Friends” of the earth’.

    That was more than harsh. As an activist, I’m sure that you appreciate the value of diversity in activism and activist approaches. Rebel, change agent, citizen, reformer. All are necessary, and I’m personally glad that FoE has been speaking out and sticking to their principles with a strong critique of the bill.

    I’m glad that the vote was so close. Your words on ‘the super-liberal Kucinich had stated he wanted to make a statement that the bill was woefully inadequate by voting no.’ I think that Kucinich did the right thing, personally, and I see FoE as playing the exact same role, but in the public sphere, instead of Congress.

  3. 3 Matt Dernoga Jun 28th, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Hey Anna at the end of the day we are working towards the same end goal, so sorry if that part sounded divisive, but I want to put it more in my perspective of how I feel about FoE.

    It’s one thing to stick to principles and offer a strong critique of the bill, I’m okay with that.

    However, if any group is trying to kill the legislation I’m working so hard to get passed, as in running ads telling people to call Congress and ask them to vote “no”, then I’m going to feel justified to criticize them for it. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to do it, and they can push their contrary opinion. I’m not stopping them, but I have an equal right to push back.

    Especially when some of the talking points used are blatantly untrue or “truthy”, which is something I expect the industry groups to do, not the environmental groups.

    So that’s how I feel about friends of the earth running the ad’s they did, which was why I sniped. The quotations around “friends” was disingenuous though, I know they’re an environmental group that pushes for good things, even if I feel they’re mistaken here.

  4. 4 David Lewis Jun 30th, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Obama’s whole domestic and international approach to climate rests on the fallacy that it will prove to be acceptable to increase the present concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rather than decrease it. The reason so much climate change is happening so quickly, beyond all expectations, is because everyone was wrong thinking there was such a thing as a “safe” level of climate change, like 2 degrees, or that that there was some level of greenhouse gas, like 450 ppm, beyond which lay disaster. We are already committed to disaster and have been for some time. As Hansen has written, he was stunned to find himself being the one to have to say it, but the target of the Copenhagen process, if successful beyond everyone’s wildest dreams, is a “recipe for global disaster”.

    Waxman-Markey is such a big step beyond the denial of the Bush years it seems like some kind of milestone, but to celebrate it seems like a tragic joke.

    Consider the debate in England before WWII. When it dawned on people Hitler was rearming Germany, there were those who thought it would not mean world war. People took different positions, some of which were very popular, and which turned out to be very wrong. The Obama approach is to declare that it will be adequate, in this analogy, to ramp up English defences in the next 50 years to a level his own military advisers know will not be enough even then to stop Hitler, and he’s selling it as the most that is politically possible to do. So what? What difference is this going to make? We are like Alice in Wonderland, we’ve taken a drink from the bottle marked Drink Me, and the shit is just starting to hit the fan.

    At some point it will be seen that it is necessary to seek a solution to the climate problem, and civilization will start to do what is required. Waxman-Markey seems like the people who were training to defend England with sticks, because in the insanity of those times as the world drifted into world war, it seemed to be better than nothing.

  5. 5 Matt Dernoga Jun 30th, 2009 at 12:32 am

    That’s a glass half-full if I’ve ever seen one.

  6. 6 popcorn Jul 7th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Aw fuck it, politicians ain’t gonna solve the root causes of climate catastrophe anyway

  1. 1 Michael Levi's Blog » Blog Archive » What the PA-12 Special Election Says About Cap and Trade Trackback on May 19th, 2010 at 10:22 am
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About Matt


I'm currently a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Public Policy with a focus in environmental policy at the University of Maryland Public Policy Program. I'm have a Bachelors of Arts in Government and Politics from of the University of Maryland College Park. I blog largely about politics relating to energy, and the environment. I'm the former Campaign Director of UMD for Clean Energy at the University of Maryland, and am still a member. My undergraduate time in college was full of climate activism including pressuring my university to commit to and finalize a climate action plan, petitioning to get the University School System of Maryland to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050, helping pass one strongest pieces of statewide global warming legislation in the country, pressuring federal leaders to pass federal climate legislation, and leading a campaign to push a green platform in our local city council elections while mobilizing students to vote in large numbers for candidates that supported it. On top of that, I'm a big political junkie. Currently, I'm the Campaign Director for Prince Georges County Council candidate Mary Lehman. During my time as an undergraduate, I wrote bi-weekly opinion columns for our college paper The Diamondback on college, statewide, and Federal issues pertaining to energy and environment. This isn't all my life though, just like err...90% of it! I'm a long distance runner, I love watching sports, I play poker etc...but there won't be much in this blog about any of that.

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