Speaking Tax to Power: House Democrats Who Opposed Cap and Trade for the Right Reasons (and Those Who Did Not)

On Friday, 44 Democrats voted against cap-and-trade legislation in the House. I want to congratulate those who did so because the legislation is far-reaching, job-destroying, and costly–but it is worth distinguishing the list of Ds into who voted “no” because the bill was bad and who voted “no” because the bill wasn’t liberal enough. Some of you may have heard, for example, that Greenpeace came out against the legislation; while many Republicans–at least on Twitter–used this as proof that the bill was terrible, these greenies thought the bill didn’t do enough for climate change and didn’t punish business owners polluters with enough taxes.

So, who had the good sense to call this bill what it is: an energy tax on hard-working families and job-creating businesses? And who is farther Left than Speaker Pelosi and President Obama?

Below you’ll find the list of 44 Ds, broken into groups of Naughty and Nice. When it comes time for Santa to vote, he better check this list twice.

Wait. What does this list mean for me, a conservative Republican or Independent against cap and trade? If your representative is on the nice list, give them a call and thank them for speaking truth to Pelosi’s power. Thank them for representing the needs of their constituents above pressure from their party. Our leaders need encouragement when they do the right thing; maybe next time a tax increase comes before your Democrat representative, he or she will remember what you said when you called. If you have liberal friends who are willing to listen to reason on this issue, ask them to call, too.

If you find your representative on the naughty list, give them a call, as well. Politely express your disagreement with their vote and encourage them to bear in mind the fiscal burden already on the shoulders of their constituents next time around.

The Nice List

Jason Altmire, 4th district, Pennsylvania.– “As our country struggles to recover from a severe economic recession, this legislation would raise energy prices for western Pennsylvania families.”

John Barrow, 12th district, Georgia – As vice chair of Blue Dogs’ energy task force, Barrow’s vote didn’t surprise anyone. In fact, Americans for Prosperity commended him for his early stance against the bill in committee and encouraged the other Georgia representatives to follow in his stead.

Dan Boren, 2nd District, Oklahoma – “Frankly, since I’ve been in Congress, this is one of the worse pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen.” Amen to that.

Chris Carney, 10th district, Pennsylvania – “Surely we can find a way to address these critical issues without burdening hard-working Americans with a tax increase and without passing along increased energy bills to consumers. Increased energy costs would be a devastating blow to families across Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania, especially now as we are all struggling to turn our economy around.”

Travis Childers, 1st district, Mississippi – “While I commend the Administration’s and House leadership’s commitment to legislation intended to promote conservation and energy independence, I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that could significantly raise costs for hard working American families and producers – specifically the agriculture industry – during today’s difficult economic times.”

Jerry Costello, 12th district, Illinois – According to TheSouthern.com, “[Costello] has said that he too believes it will result in higher electric bills.”

Kathy Dahlkemper, 3rd district, PennsylvaniaIt’s true that Dahlkemper thinks “global climate change remains one of the most serious concerns facing the United States and the world today,” but she makes the Nice List because she gets it when it comes to cap and trade. From the Meadville Tribune: “Because ‘heavy manufacturing and steel production are crucial industries to the economic vitality, jobs and families of northwestern Pennsylvania,’ Dahlkemper said, ‘the legislation will leave these jobs vulnerable to countries like China and India that are not subject to cap-and-trade laws.'”

Artur Davis, 7th district, Alabama – This one liner from the congressman-running-for-governor sums it all up: “This bill is still going to wreak havoc with the manufacturing sector in some parts of the country.” Watch this C-SPAN video for more about his opposition to the bill, in his own words:

Lincoln Davis, 4th district, Tennessee – Davis didn’t take a solid, this-is-an-energy-tax stance, but he does recognize that it’s bad for business in his state–and that’s good enough for me. According to Nashville Public Radio, “Under cap and trade, Davis says power companies in states like Tennessee would likely scramble to buy unused credits from their Western counterparts: ‘You wanna put a cap? Fine. But I’m not for shifting that dollar somewhere else and give them the economic advantage.'”

Joe Donnelly, 2nd district, Indiana“The legislation has too many uncertainties in terms of the effect it would have on manufacturers and other businesses and the Hoosiers they employ. In particular, I am very concerned that the bill would put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to other emerging economic powers like China and India.” (Good call, Donnelly, considering The Heritage Foundation estimates that Indiana has the most to lose from this legislation.)

Chet Edwards, 17th district, Texas – “I voted against the energy cap and trade bill, because I am concerned it could increase gasoline and utility costs for families, farmers and businesses during tough economic times. Addressing global warming is a laudable goal, but I respectfully disagree with President Obama and Speaker Pelosi on this bill and believe it could cost jobs and hurt the economy, especially in oil, gas and coal producing states such as Texas.”

Brad Ellsworth, 8th district, Indiana – “I am deeply concerned about the unintended consequences this bill may have on consumers and businesses in Indiana. We don’t know how these policies will ultimately impact utility bills, job prospects and the strength of our economy down the road.”

Parker Griffith, 5th district, Alabama – “I am concerned about the negative impact this legislation would have on our economy, the state of Alabama and our nation. … Everyone can agree on the long term goals of greener energy, but there is a cheaper and better way to do this without burdening Alabama consumers.” Griffith gets bonus points for calling out the fact that nuclear energy isn’t part of the legislation’s green energy efforts.

Ann Kirkpatrick, 1st district, Arizona – “Right now, we need to make some tough choices, and our first priority has to be keeping folks employed and getting our economy back on track. We need to focus on jumpstarting our economy and creating jobs, and this legislation will work against that goal at a critical time.”

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, South Dakota (at large) – According to the Argus Leader, “Herseth Sandlin said she heard from several utilities ‘that the allowances for emissions in the bill still aren’t fairly distributed and this disparity could mean dramatic rate hikes for its customers in South Dakota.'” Plus, she criticized the House leadership’s speed: “The stakes are simply too high for a rushed solution that can potentially create more problems than it solves.”

Eric Massa, 29th district, New York – “I was also deeply concerned by the fact that hydrogen fuel cell technology did not receive any attention in this legislation. Additionally, my constituents have told me in overwhelming levels that they wanted me to reject this plan, and as their Representative, I take their opinions very seriously. I was also upset by how rushed this process was. We have a district work week coming up and I would have liked the opportunity to hold more town hall meetings while this issue is on the front burner to hear what the families of Western New York thought about Cap and Trade.” Like his South Dakota colleague, Massa had the courage to say, in so many words, “Hey, what’s the rush?”

Jim Matheson, 2nd district, Utah – A Salt Lake Tribune editorial, referring to Matheson’s no vote on the bill in committee stages, conceded that he “represents a district with heavily Republican pockets that depend on coal mining and coal-fired power plants,” but chided him for “plac[ing] coal, oil and gas interests ahead of his constituents’ and fear of change ahead of faith in American ingenuity.” Am I going out on a limb here by saying that the coal mining and coal-fired power plants provide a heckuva lot of jobs in the area? How then is it that siding with business is incongruent with the constituency?

Mike McIntyre, 7th district, North Carolina – “God’s beautiful earth must be protected and preserved, but this bill is not the answer. It will cost jobs, increase electricity rates, pass on financial burdens to the next generation, and hurt ourselves in this global economy. It would potentially allow more jobs to go overseas to countries who do not comply with the same standards.” Imagine that: a reasonable list of objections without the usual “but, of course, climate change is a serious issue” disclaimer. And no, before someone accuses me of it, he didn’t automatically make the nice list by mentioning God.

Charlie Melancon, 3rd district, Louisiana – “The oil and gas industry is the engine driving south Louisiana’s economy, providing good-paying jobs to hundreds of thousands of our workers for generations. Rising sea levels and more frequent hurricanes are serious threats to south Louisiana, threats caused by climate change. We must work together as a nation to reduce the pollution causing this climate change, but not on the back of our energy industry in Louisiana.” Weather caused Hurricane Katrina, not climate change, but his strong defense of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry is commendable nonetheless.

Alan Mollohan, 1st district, West Virginia – Kudos to Mollohan for remaining loyal to his coal county constituents. “For the past several weeks, I have joined the electric utility industry, the coal industry, the United Mine Workers of America, and other coal state Representatives on negotiations to improve the legislation. We have made significant progress on a number of fronts that together would hold down the cost of electricity to residential and industrial consumers, that would help level the playing field for our steel and manufacturing industries that face international competition, and that would enable the electric power industry to continue to burn West Virginia coal. As a result of our efforts, the bill is much improved from the original draft, but it still falls short in several key areas, and I cannot support it.”

Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota (at large) – “I’m here to represent North Dakota and we only have one guy: me. I know how badly the speaker wants this bill, but I have a job to do.” America’s Grandma, take that.

Nick Joe Rahall, 3rd district, West Virginia – “Coal does much more than keep the lights on in big cities across America. In southern West Virginia, it covers the mortgage, puts food on the family dinner table, and keeps open the doors of small businesses. While the emissions target in the early years of this program has been lowered from the 20 percent cap initially contained in this bill, there remains widespread concern that even the reduced cap — 17 percent in 2020 — is still too high and too soon to incentivize rapid development and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies, so as to ensure coal mining jobs for the future.” A reservation worth noting: Rahall opposes the bill because the carbon cap would kill coal mining jobs in his district, but seems open to a lower carbon ceiling.

John Salazar, 3rd district, Colorado – “I cannot support dramatically increasing utility rates on my constituents at a time when I feel the economy is just starting to stabilize across the state.”

John Taylor, 8th district, Tennessee – “We realize action is needed to address our country’s energy needs, lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and ensure good stewardship of our environment. This legislation, however, is not the best approach and does not come at the right time. Many of us are hopeful the Senate will produce legislation that addresses these goals without the negative impact the House-passed bill could have on the 8th District.” Tanner has been maddeningly vague about his vote on the energy tax, but he is the proud co-founder of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who were queasy about the bill’s price tag.

Gene Taylor, 4th district, Mississippi – “I do not believe a cap and trade system is the approach that is best to reduce global warming gases. As a matter of fact, I think it is a simple ‘Ponzi Scheme’ that will increase energy prices.”

Pete Visclosky, 1st district, Indiana – Visclosky acknowledges the effect of rising energy prices and job losses among his blue-collar constituents. “Although significant progress has been made on this bill on a number of fronts that would hold down the cost of electricity to residential and industrial customers and help level the playing field for our steel and manufacturing industries that face international competition, the bill still falls short.”

Charlie Wilson, 6th district, Ohio – “I told [Pelosi] I’ve been with you on the stimulus package, the budget. . . children’s health care. . .everything you’ve asked me be with you on. This is a vote against the people I represent. I can’t do it.” Good call, considering the steel and coal jobs in his district that would be on the line.

The Naughty List

Michael Arcuri, 24th district, New York – Arcuri voted against the bill, but with no statement or justification behind it, so I’m presuming that he’s not against the bill because it is an energy tax. I’m happy to be proven wrong on this one.

Marion Berry, 1st district, Arkansas – It’s almost impossible to find anything from Berry regarding the cap and trade bill. Let’s hope the large number of rural voters in his district lit up his phones.

Bobby Bright, 2nd district, Alabama – Bright voted no at the very end, presumably when he knew the bill would pass and he was safe from Democratic criticism.

Jim Costa, 20th district, California – From the good people at Flash Report: “Sources in the capitol tell me that once it became apparent that cap and trade was going to pass, Costa got a ‘pass’ to vote no.” Plus, Costa has voted with party leadership 97.9 percent of the time in 2009; this didn’t factor into others rankings on this list, but it sure doesn’t gain Costa the benefit of the doubt either.

Peter DeFazio, 4th district, Oregon – Greenpeace, meet your BFF. In his own words: “An unregulated cap-and-trade system could be the next subprime mortgage bubble. In the next decade we could easily be talking about ‘subprime carbon,’ ‘carbon default swaps,’ and ‘junk carbon.'” His press release on the issue also states: “In Europe, emissions continue to rise despite $60 billion worth of allowances being traded in the lucrative market every year. DeFazio has been a long time critic of an unregulated market-based approach to address climate change, pointing to the potential for market manipulation, speculation, and profiteering.” DeFazio’s vote against cap and trade is a signal of his distrust in a “market-based approach,” not a stance against unfair energy taxes.

Bill Foster, 14th district, Illinois – Yes, Foster acknowledges a cost concern, but he wants tougher legislation that would further punish (read: tax) polluters.

Tim Holden, 17th district, Pennsylvania – He indicated early on that he was a “definite no,” but never clarified his opposition or publicly condemned the bill.

Larry Kissell, 8th district, North Carolina – His spokesperson announced that Kissell will be opposing the bill, but no statement or reasoning was ever released by his office.

Dennis Kucinich, 10th district, Ohio – No one is surprised here. “It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out “coal” by giving it record subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.”

Jim Marshall, 8th district, Georgia – Marshall refused to take a position on the bill well into the debate and has made no strong statements of principle against it.

Walt Minnick, 1st district, Idaho – Minnick’s comment starts off great, but then rapidly makes a bizarre U-turn from fiscal conservatism and proposes what amounts to a pseudo-Marxist pollution tax. See for yourself: “‘Cap and trade’ is not the best way to control greenhouse gas emissions, nor is it the right solution for Idaho. It will raise prices, make it harder to invest and is bad for business at a time when we must be focused on creating jobs. … We should also tax the biggest polluters and rebate the proceeds to their customers. That will create market stability, and will help business know their costs. There will be less greenhouse gases, but consumers will avoid higher prices at the pump and in their monthly electric bills.”

Harry Mitchell, 1st district, Arizona – “This bill literally re-commits the United States to coal, a step backwards at a time when it is vitally important for us to move forward. Clean, renewable energy should be our chief priority, not fossil fuels. In Arizona, this bill asks us to pay more for our energy, but fails to deliver what is necessary to help us grow our emerging solar industry. I introduced an amendment to improve the bill to make financing more available for solar energy. However, my amendment was blocked and didn’t receive a vote.” Let’s see: Mitchell voted against the bill because it insufficiently damaged the coal industry and didn’t provide enough funding for solar panel fantasies. Mitchell is no friend to the free market and he’s no friend of mine.

Glenn Nye, 2nd district, Virginia – Nye seems to have given no definitive press release or quote on the cap and trade bill.

Solomon P. Ortiz, 27th district, Texas – Ortiz pledged Pelosi he would vote yes, but then voted no at the last minute. Another backbone gone missing.

Ciro Rodriguez, 23rd district, Texas – Fearful of Hoyer’s and Pelosi’s wrath, Rodriguez pledged to vote for the bill, then cast a “no” vote and sprinted from the House chamber, according to the Politico. Rodriguez has since remained unavailable for comment and has released no press release on the topic. Grow a backbone.

Mike Ross, 4th district, Arkansas – “This cap-and-trade bill fails to create any new energy and disproportionately hurts rural areas like Arkansas. That is why on Tuesday, I introduced a bill, the American-Made Energy Act of 2009, H.R. 3009, which proposes to create new energy by calling for the single largest investment in American-made alternative and renewable energy in our nation’s history, while increasing our domestic oil and natural gas production here at home using new, 21st century technologies that allow us to recover the oil and natural gas we need and be good stewards of the environment.” Ross’ place on the list is debatable because he is worried about his district, but the fact that he introduced another bill funneling unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money to new energy sources amidst a skyrocketing deficit makes him naughty.

Pete Stark, 13th district, California – “I commend the emission reduction targets laid out in the legislation. I am not convinced, however, that these targets will be met in the near future due to the many loopholes and dubious offset provisions contained in the bill. This bill unfortunately continues the Congressional tradition of subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. Only this time it is cloaked in the disguise of environmentalism and the subsidies come in the form of free allowances, institutionalization of the “clean coal” fiction, and the gutting of EPA authority.” Stark, a mean-spirited left-winger, thinks there’s too much free market and not enough government regulation in the bill.

***

Most expect that cap and trade will not make it through the Senate, but we can’t bank on that. Is your senator is on the fence about cap and trade? Do a little homework–and post a comment below or contact me via e-mail or Twitter and let me know what you plan to do about it.

Update: Why wait to contact your representative? Below you’ll find a useful tool that allows you to contact your legislators through social networks and express your concern about cap and trade, energy dependence and more. Thanks to @JennL for sharing this resource with me.


Matt Purple contributed to the research for this post.

Cross-posted at Catherine Favazza.

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