June 17, 2008 | Commentary on Energy and Environment

McCain-Lieberman: Then and Now

Four and a half years ago, the U.S. Senate rejected a global-warming bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) by a decisive 43-55 vote. After the vote, McCain said, "We've lost a battle today, but we'll win over time because climate change is real. And we will overcome the influence of the special interests over time. You can only win by marshaling public opinion."

But if the recent Senate vote on the Lieberman-Warner global-warming bill is any indication, public opinion is moving away from McCain's 2003 effort and Al Gore's current cadre of climate-change alarmists.

After the vote last week, Lieberman claimed 54 senators had supported the bill (although only 48 bothered to actually vote to move the bill forward). A close examination of post-debate statements reveals that support for the cap-and-tax bill was the virtually unchanged from 2003. Of those 54 senators who Lieberman cited, 11 released statements indicating that they could not vote for the bill on final passage.

Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), John Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and James Webb (D-Va.) sent a letter to the Democrat leadership saying they could not "support final passage" of the bill "in its current form."

  • Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) released a statement saying, "It is clear by the result that serious modifications to this bill are necessary for it to clear the legislative hurdles before it."
  • Even McCain, who has promised to implement an economically devastating cap-and-tax regime as president, issued a statement clarifying that he "could not support the legislation's final passage."

With no measurable progress on the "most important issues we face in the world today," as Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is fond of saying, one is left wondering what happened. The simple answer is that the debate is no longer one-sided. The soaring rhetoric of radical environmentalists, liberals and some moderates is no longer gospel. It can and should be challenged with facts about the economy and the immense pain Americans would feel if such a bill were enacted.

Despite the resounding defeat, proponents predict success in 2009. Fortunately the American people are becoming aware that job losses, rising prices and falling incomes are not something Congress should be mandating.

Entitlement and Tax Reform

Conservatives have criticized the Republican Party for failing to stand for bedrock conservative principles of low taxes and shrinking the size and scope of the federal government. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has heeded the call and drafted a "Roadmap for America's Future." According to Ryan, the legislation "is a plan that draws on America's strengths to restore our long-held legacy of leaving the next generation better off."

On health care reform, the bill provides transparency in health care pricing and data, so that consumers could make educated choices before a sick individual rushes to see a doctor to buy necessary medical services. On tax reform, the bill would provide taxpayer choice. Individuals could choose how to pay taxes: Use the existing burdensome tax code, or choose a simplified code with a 10 percentrate on income up to $100,000 for joint filers ($50,000 for single filers) and 25 percent on taxable income above these amounts.

On the big entitlement programs, Ryan would give states flexibility with federal Medicaid funds, transition Medicare to allow beneficiaries to choose the most affordable coverage through the establishment of medical savings accounts, and allow workers under 55 the option of investing more than a third of their current Social Security taxes into a personal retirement account.

Impeachment of President Bush

Last week, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), used a parliamentary maneuver in the House to force the reading of an impeachment measure against President Bush. The reading of the Articles of Impeachment took about five hours and included allegations that President Bush invaded Iraq "in violation of the U.N. Charter" and engaged in a "conspiracy to violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965." Kucinich also accused Bush of "misleading the Congress and the American people in an attempt to destroy Medicare" and "systematically undermining efforts to address global climate change."

Conservatives, however, should applaud the president for ignoring the U.N., attempting to reform Medicare and trying to advance climate-change solutions that won't raise gasoline prices to $6 a gallon.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

Related Issues: Energy and Environment

First appeared in Human Events