President Obama’s big climate change rollout — which he’ll present in a speech this afternoon — relies almost entirely on the promise of executing a series of ambitious policy proposals by executive action. As such, it represents perhaps the most direct White House response yet to a defining fact about the Obama era: The refusal of many in the GOP to act as a constructive, minimally functional partner when it comes to basic governing designed to address the country’s most pressing problems.
To be sure, a handful of red state Dems, such as Joe Manchin, can also be blamed for standing in the way of climate action. But the GOP is far and away the primary reason such action remains all but impossible. Indeed, as Jonathan Cohn details this morning, national Republicans are already laying plans to make Democratic candidates in 2014 (some of whom may distance themselves from Obama because of GOP attacks) pay politically for his climate push. In other words, the GOP is not only populated with a fair amount of climate deniers; it also institutionally views climate change only as an issue to exploit for short term political gain, rather than a long term challenge facing the country.
Indeed, the early response to Obama’s push from GOP leaders confirms that they view the very notion that climate change is a governing challenge worth addressing as plainly absurd on its face. So acting without them is the only option.
NBC News’ Michael O’Brien has a good summary of everything Obama will propose today to combat climate change, all of it aiming to reduce greenhouse gas production. A directive for the EPA to establish carbon emission standards for existing power plants. An end to financing of green-unfriendly coal plants abroad. Higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy vehicles. A greater focus by federal agencies on how climate change is effecting the economy. A more aggressive push for international climate agreements and environmentally friendly free trade pacts.
There are plenty of caveats. Obama has yet to take a position on Keystone XL, which enviros strongly oppose because it would transport tar sands oil. And as Juliet Eilperin details this morning, Obama’s plan for new EPA regs faces major procedural hurdles and the certainty of stiff legal and political opposition.
But to environmentalists, today is a big day — not least because it reflects Obama’s recognition of the urgency of acting without the acquiescence of Congress. The stakes are great and go beyond climate change. As Jonathan Chait put it recently:
The radicalism of the current Republican Party – its ideological extremism, disdain for empiricism, the inability to share or modulate power – is, to me, the central problem in American life. In the long run, the resolution to nearly every policy problem depends on the GOP refashioning itself as a normal, non-pathological party.
Obama’s climate push will test whether there’s a short term route around this central problem.
* PAUL RYAN SAYS IMMIGRATION REFORM COULD PASS HOUSE: This could be key: GOP Rep. Ryan tells CBS News that yesterday’s addition to the Senate bill of the Corker-Hoeven border security amendment makes the chances of final passage “even more likely.” Indeed, Ryan even says the new security measures have the support of a majority of House Republicans.
I wouldn’t dismiss the likelihood that a majority of House Republicans will oppose reform in the end. But if GOP leaders such as Ryan, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy support reform, mightn’t that help insulate Boehner from a leadership challenge if he lets the bill pass with mostly Dems?
* GOP BASE WANTS LAWMAKERS TO REJECT IMMIGRATION REFORM: That’s the message in a new National Journal poll:
The conservative rank-and-file have a loud and clear message for Republican officials: Support citizenship for illegal immigrants at your own peril.
A sizable plurality of registered GOP voters say they will be less likely to support their incumbent lawmaker if he or she votes for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for those currently living illegally in the United States.
But again: We already know the base will demand rejection of reform. The only question is whether GOP leaders are willing to embrace reform for the long term good of the party and accept the consequences from the base.
* DON’T MOVE IMMIGRATION BILL TOO FAR TO RIGHT, DEMS: One downside to yesterday’s Corker-Hoeven success: Dems accepted an amendment by Orrin Hatch that would bar undocumented immigrants from qualifying for Social Security or federal welfare funds, prompting this from Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“It is a tough pill to swallow, and there is no guarantee it will not get worse later in the process. If the path to citizenship is further weakened, there could come a tipping point where the bill becomes unsupportable.”
The temptation to make more concessions to conservatives will be very great as this process continues, but the possibility of fracturing the coalition on the left that is helping make reform possible remains very real.
* BOEHNER UNCHASTENED BY FARM BILL DEBACLE: Roll Call reports that the House Speaker will continue embracing a leadership style that allows for a freewheeling amendment process, which helped result in an onerous food stamp amendment that drove Dems away from the farm bill, and helped sink it.
Okay. But as Nancy Pelosi warned, if Republicans try to push immigration reform too far to the right, they can except that it will meet the same fate the farm bill did.
The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny…the documents seem to change the terms of a scandal that exploded over accusations that the I.R.S. had tried to stifle a nascent conservative political movement. Instead, the dispute now revolves around questionable sorting tactics used by I.R.S. application screeners.
This strikes right at the gut of the scandal. We’re no longer even talking about White House involvement in any targeting of conservative groups, which has already been undercut by evidence; we’re talking about whether any targeting occurred at all.
* WILL PUNDITS ACKNOWLEDGE COLLAPSE OF IRS SCANDAL? A great point from Steve Benen:
If the traditional trajectory of stories like these is any indication, Americans will hear quite a bit about the allegations, but the resolution will get far less play…But if accountability still means anything, every lawmaker and pundit who made Nixon comparisons, and accused the president of using the IRS as a political weapon, has a responsibility to be equally as aggressive in telling the public that those allegations were wrong.
They won’t, of course.
* AND IN MASSACHUSETTS, GOP PRAYS FOR LOW TURNOUT: With Massachusetts set to pick a Senator today, Republicans are hoping low will enable Gabriel Gomez to pull off a surprise victory, while Democrats are eager to bury the ghost of Scott Brown, the last big Massachusetts beneficiary of unpredictable turnout in special elections. A win by Ed Markey would serve as another reminder (as if 2012 weren’t enough) that it’s not 2010 anymore.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls currently has Markey up by 12.3 points.