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.