Lieberman-Warner Spin Tornado Ensnares Journalists
We've been hit with a fast-moving, spinning column of hot air - and it's not another midwestern tornado. It's Joe Lieberman.Cross-posted on the National Center for Public Policy Research blog.
After Senate Democrats fell 12 votes short of the number needed to invoke cloture to end debate over the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act and move to a vote earlier today, Senator Lieberman (I-CT) issued a press release boldly proclaiming victory.
"Today 54 members of the United States Senate, including 9 Republicans, demonstrated their desire to move forward with the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act," Lieberman's press statement said.
Oh really? There were, in fact, only 48 votes in favor of ending the debate. The Connecticut tornado - er, Senator - also counted five Senators who didn't attend the vote, but who indicated in letters that they would have voted in favor of cloture had it been important enough to them to show up. Lieberman's count also included Senator Edward Kennedy, recovering from surgery, who had also sent a letter.
But U.S. Senate doesn't operate by mail-in ballot - at least, not yet. Senator Lieberman used to know that when he was a Democrat.
Then Senator Lieberman told this whopper: "We have convinced a majority in the Senate to support mandatory, comprehensive, market-based legislation to curb global warming and enhance U.S. energy security."
Majority? What majority? Even if one accepts the dubious claim that Senators who don't vote count, an aye vote in this instance doesn't translate to support for the underlying legislation. This was a vote to end the debate.
As Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) noted, as quoted in the National Journal, "I separate the two. I may be against the bill, but I want to vote for its consideration so it gets an up-or-down vote."
In fact, ten Democrats, nine of whom voted for cloture on Lieberman-Warner, had already indicated their intention to vote against final passage.
In a letter to Senators Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer dated today, the ten Democrat Senators stated: "As Democrats from regions of the country that will be most immediately affected by climate legislation, we want to share our concerns with the bill that is currently before the Senate... we cannot support final passage of the Boxer Substitute in its current form."
The Senators were Debbie Stabenow (MI), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Carl Levin (MI), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Mark Pryor (AR), Jim Webb (VA), Evan Bayh (IN), Claire McCaskill (MO), Sherrod Brown (OH) and Ben Nelson (NE).
Senator McCain has said he wouldn't support the bill's final passage unless changes were made - including a provision specifically permitting nuclear power to be used to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Since no amendments were to have been allowed and nuclear technology wasn't part of the bill, this all but assured that Senator McCain would have voted against the bill's final passage.
The number of Senators who supported the climate bill was likely less than 44, meaning that climate change legislation hasn't gained much ground if any since the Senate last voted on the issue in 2005. Back then, it received 38 votes in favor.
Nonetheless, many in the mainstream media happily followed Senator Lieberman's spin.
Reuters wrote, for example, "Far from being discouraged, Sen. Joe Lieberman said international observers would be gratified that the measure got support from a majority in the Senate."
And the San Francisco Chronicle noted: "The tally was a big jump over the 38 votes a similar bill received in 2005..."
Just three days ago, Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act's advocates hailed the 74-14 vote to consider the measure as a great victory.
Three days later, the number of Senators supporting their position dropped by over 35%.
Now that's what I call Joe-mentum.