In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) doesn't much care about greenhouse gas emissions, but that doesn't stop him from taking full advantage of his platform as the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works committee. For instance, just today he commented on climate change legislation--unveiled by Henry Waxman and Ed Markey in the House, not the Senate--with customary good cheer:

"I look forward to a full, open and honest debate over the 600-plus page Waxman-Markey climate tax bill," Senator Inhofe said. "It appears that this legislation is yet another version of the same story: a job-killing tax increase on American consumers that jeopardizes America's energy security, while doing nothing to address climate change. In short, it's all economic pain for no climate gain."


That bolded section ought to come with an asterisk at the end of it--because as he made clear...also today, he doesn't actually think climate change exists. Watch it:

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It's clear that both parties expect a close race in today's special election for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, because they're both downplaying expectations -- though Dems seem just a bit more confident.

The DCCC has released a detailed memo talking about all the obstacles they face here: The big GOP advantage in voter registration, Republican state House Minority Leader Jim Tedisco's name identification against the first-time Dem candidate Scott Murphy, and the early views from pundits that they would have a tough time holding it.

On the other hand, the memo boasts of just how far Murphy has come: "After more than $2 million in negative advertising against Murphy, how did NY-20 become competitive in eight short weeks? Quite simply, he ran a better campaign." They also credit Murphy's support for the Obama agenda, as having taken him this far: "This campaign was a fight between Murphy's message of bipartisan progress on the economy and Tedisco's embrace of Republicans' 'just say no' obstructionism."

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Bloomberg reported a frightening fact this morning: The U.S. government has spent committed nearly as much on to bailing out financial firms -- $12.8 trillion, when you total up guarantees and loans given by the Treasury, Fed, and FDIC -- as the nation's entire $14.2 trillion domestic product.

But that's not the only eye-popping bailout number that was released today. In a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, panel chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) noted that the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) has put taxpayers on the book for at least $2.9 trillion. That number is almost equal to the U.S. government's total spending during the 2008 fiscal year, which you can find in Table 5 of this document.

Baucus described the bailout as a shadow U.S. budget "dedicated solely to saving the financial system, and that is truly surreal."

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), who has been in a face-off with his national party leadership and has openly accused them of trying to force him into retirement, told local reporters back home that his fundraising for this past quarter has been "lousy."

Remember that Bunning, who only won by 51%-49% in the very Republican year of 2004 and could be in a tough race again, has said that his fundraising has been sabotaged by his party leadership spreading rumors that he might retire, along with a possible primary challenge from state Senate President David Williams. Bunning has also singled out his co-Senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for continuing to raise money for himself even though he was just re-elected and Bunning is approaching his next race.

On the bright side, Bunning said the fundraising pace has picked up just recently: "Maybe I finally have convinced everybody, in spite of my leadership, that I am running."

The most recent FEC filings showed Bunning with only $149,991.09 cash on hand as of December 31, 2008. We'll find out soon enough what he has now.

Elana reported below on Greenpeace's efforts to push the House's climate change debate to the left, noting some of their early reactions to the Waxman-Markey legislation unveiled today.

Greenpeace also highlights one politically difficult question that was left unanswered by Waxman and Markey: Would emissions credits be given away free to fossil-fuel-burning businesses, or auctioned off to raise money for green transit and/or taxpayer rebates?


As it happens, Markey addressed that very question today during his conference call with reporters. His answer was somewhat vague--he refused to announce any goals about the proportion of emissions he'd like to see sold at auction, for instance. But he did note that, in the final bill, "what is most likely to happen is a combination of the two"--some will be given away, the rest will be auctioned.

That won't please Greenpeace, and it's not what Obama asked for, but if Markey's saying that now, it's likely that there's no way around it.

A new Rasmussen poll finds that Michele Bachmann's new pet issue of preventing Americans from being sucked into a new one-world government currency -- a threat that doesn't actually exist -- could potentially have some real popular appeal.

Keep in mind that this would hardly be the first time that public opinion turned on things that weren't true. It can very often be more important what voters think is being proposed, rather than what is actually going on.

The pollster's analysis acknowledges: "At issue is not replacing the money in Americans' wallets but what currency will be the world standard against which all other monies are measured." But the questions themselves don't clearly make this distinction for the respondents, asking about the proposal "to replace the dollar with a new global currency."

To a degree, this was a deliberate choice, Scott Rasmussen told TPM. "I was really curious where the suspicion level was going to be on this particular question," said Rasmussen, noting that this is a story that hasn't been discussed or explained very much, and where public opinion is very fluid.

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The climate change draft bill released today by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) goes further than the White House in terms of its emissions targets -- but the plan also tacks right in some notable ways, as Greenpeace is noting in its newly released response.

Steven Biel, director of Greenpeace's U.S. global warming campaign, raised questions about two elements of the Waxman-Markey plan and called for it to be "strengthened" by Congress.

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A few minutes ago on the floor of the Senate, Barbara Boxer called out Republicans for their... call it 'selective opposition' to the budget reconciliation process.



Boxer chairs the Environment and Public Works committee, and spent the early afternoon fending off Republican attempts to explicitly prevent the Senate from using reconciliation to pass climate change legislation. We'll try to get that document she submitted for the record and when we do, we'll post it here.

The floor debates on the budget continue in both chambers today. A couple things we'll be looking out for--Republicans should be offering an amendment at some point have offered an amendment that would "prohibit the use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system." Right now, reconciliation instructions are only included in the House bill, but they may well be imported to the Senate bill in conference.

Meanwhile, Senator John Thune has introduced an amendment that would "prohibit the collection of funds from any future cap and trade proposal if that proposal would increase electricity rates and gasoline prices for American households and businesses."

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Following up on Elana's post about the Waxman-Markey legislation, I just got off a conference call with Ed Markey himself and Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the climate change process. The goal, Pelosi said, was to have the bill passed by July--but she conceded that the goal, and the separate task of bringing Republicans aboard, will be a challenge.

The plan the Democrats put forward is pretty ambitious, at least by the standards of the U.S. Congress, but that means much less coming from the House than it would from the Senate, which is the real choke point for all of this stuff. One way around that roadblock is, famously, the reconciliation process. But the authors of this legislation--no wilting violets, they--signed on to a letter to President Obama saying, "using the budget reconciliation process, which curtails Senate filibuster rights, could arouse regional distrust and make reaching agreement harder."

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