Perhaps Ezra Klein is right. Congress is not yet ready to take up global warming. Certainly the House vote on the Climate Change bill gives more than enough evidence, with virtually the entire GOP in opposition, plus 44 Democrats. So it wasn’t a surprise that our own Vern Ehlers would be in opposition. A disappointment, yes, but no surprise.
Nonetheless, Ehler’s statement is filled with a regretful knowing. This is a major issue, and yes, he strongly supports efforts “to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, promote conservation of resources, and develop alternative and more efficient sources of energy.” And certainly this is an issue that needs more research, but action? Cap and trade? And couldn’t they have at least asked the Republicans (one is tempted to inquire who he has in mind, given the GOP record of skepticism if not outright denial on global climate change). Sadly this is a good cause, but
I believe action is needed to minimize the impacts of climate change. However, this bill is the wrong way to do it, and it was rushed through the legislative process at the worst possible time for Michigan’s economy. Our state is hurting badly right now, and the policies in this bill will only make matters worse for Michigan families who are already struggling.
The turn to the economy is useful, but also something of a mystery given the Congressman’s own (in)action. As the economic storm strengthened in Fall 2008 and Michigan auto makers struggled to survive, political leaders from both parties took action. Spoke out. That honor roll includes Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Virg Benaro, mayor of Lansing; and our own City Commissioner, David LaGrand. Plenty of folks got it. Yet Ehlers own stance was largely on the sidelines — one mention in The Press, but no risk of political capital on his part. And certainly no press release until after the vote.
But this time, he gets religion. Michigan jobs are at stake. Perhaps. Others would say that what he actually got were plenty of phone calls spurred by Rush Limbaugh. Still whether it’s jobs or simply political pressure, there is a strong whiff of disappointment to all this.
After all, Ehlers has built a reputation as a reasonable vote on the environment; the new rationale is a sort of jilting. As long-time observers know, the Congressman has always been a man of two parts, one a moderate in style and generally open to environmental issues, the other a staunch partisan. The man of principle and green ideals has long been his calling card, so why surrender it now? Oddly, the most likely explanation is that his career is coming to end. And so in these last days he lets his partisan derangement over the White House get the better of him. This is, after all, one of the proposed signature bills for the President, as Rahm Emanuel explains, “He loves this bill and lobbied hard for it, including the great, the good and the not-so-great provisions.”
Sadly, it is this commitment finally to a waning partisan viewpoint that also explains his earlier, contradictory stance on Michigan jobs. The reason he kept silent and did not use his capital in October and November, is the same reason that he turns his back on the commitments of his younger days: his Party calls.