The New ‘Nuclear Option’: Fast-Tracking Climate Change in the Budget

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President Obama’s budget is a veritable road map to a more progressive tax policy, as I noted earlier today, but it also includes specific plans for regulating carbon emissions to fight climate change.

That, in turn, opens the door for Congress to use “budget reconciliation” process rules that would shield climate legislation from Senate filibusters when it comes to a vote (expected later this year or early next year). Using reconciliation to speed passage of health care reform has been a hot topic since onetime health secretary Tom Daschle flirted with the idea earlier this year, but budget reconciliation for climate change is a relatively new prospect in the Capitol Hill pipeline. And guess who thinks it’s a terrible idea, as Roll Call reports today (sub. req’d)?

One energy industry spokesman who suggests waiting a year or two on climate change said that using reconciliation “is the nuclear option” and that Democratic leaders don’t appear willing to go there yet. “It would signal all bets are off on any kind of bipartisanship,” he said.

Climate change seems to be the heavier lift, with Republican leadership already blasting cap-and-trade as a tax increase by another name in the midst of a recession, which paradoxically could make reconciliation more necessary if Democrats really want to get it done. And doing both in one bill could make for some messy politics.

“The nuclear option,” eh? If energy industry reps keep using that term, they’re just going to make House Democrats more inclined to pull the trigger, given how happy the lower chamber is with the filibuster-happy Senate GOP these days. Stay tuned …

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