With Climate Change Vote, House Tries To Prod Senate Into Action–Will It Work?

The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress were in top political form on Friday, ushering the Waxman-Markey bill to passage by the narrowest of margins. In so doing, they picked off Democratic fence sitters strategically, to use what leverage they have to pressure Senate moderates into voting for passage as well.

For instance, a number of Democratic reps from states like Indiana, Missouri, and others voted for passage, which could make it harder for skeptical senators like Claire McCaskill and Evan Bayh to filibuster, or vote against it.

They also tailored the bill in such a way that it will be more palatable to Democratic senators from manufacturing states–like Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown in Ohio–than past climate change bills have been.

But much will also depend on the timeline.As the 2010 election approaches, members of Congress will become less and less willing to take risky votes, and Democratic leaders will become less and less willing to put them in a position to do so. At the same time, the Senate isn’t anywhere near ready to vote on a climate change bill, so if they want to get it done, they’ll likely have to hurry.

That seems to be what the President wants. “I’ll use just the workout metaphor, and that is, you know, when you start training again and you’re pushing your body a little bit harder, sometimes it hurts,” Obama told reporters over the weekend.

But if you keep on at it, after a while your body adjusts. And I think that’s what’s happening to politics in Washington. Folks have been sitting on the couch for a while, and now they’re starting to feel like, hey, you know what, I can run. And that’s why we’re getting stuff done.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be times where it hurts a little bit.

But he also acknowledged that the pace of progress is in large part up to the Senate–and that’s not a body known for swift legislating.