Monday, March 22, 2010

Prospects for Financial Reform and Climate Change

Now that health care reform has passed, Congress turns to financial reform and climate change: two more big complicated bills with lots of moving parts that would affect large portions of the economy. What could possibly go wrong?
The good news is that these big complicated bills have a better shot at real bipartisan cooperation, with a handful of Republican senators engaged (if unenthusiastically) in crafting legislation.
Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) introduced his finance reform proposal last week without any GOP colleagues signing on to the bill. Dodd, who had been working on a plan with Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said he hadn't given up on a bipartisan approach, but wanted to get a proposal on the table. The Washington Post reports that Dodd went public to smoke out GOP objections. House Republicans are already ahead of him. Think Progress reports that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told a group of bankers, "Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves."
Republicans hoping to ride the wave of tea party populism to block financial system reform will find that populism breaks two ways. Yes, the bailouts were unpopular, but standing up for bankers may not arouse the popular uproar Boehner and his colleagues expect.
Action on energy and climate change will be harder. The New York Times reports that efforts to craft a bipartisan energy bill are still alive:
Under pressure to quickly produce a bill, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) yesterday shared an eight-page outline of their draft plan in a closed-door meeting with major industry groups.
According to several sources in the meeting room, the bill will call for greenhouse gas curbs across multiple economic sectors, with a target of reducing emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Power plant emissions would be regulated in 2012, with other major industrial sources phased in starting in 2016.
No written summary has been circulated on the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman proposal. Stay tuned.

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