Archive for the ‘Hurricane Sandy’ Category
Sen. Barbara Boxer said she had a one word answer for why President Obama promised to act on climate change in his second inaugural address: “Sandy.”
Boxer called Hurricane Sandy a turning point in public opinion on global warming, and said Washington will act to curb CO2 emissions not via legislation but through the Environmental Protection Agency.
“My view is they have no choice but to act,” Boxer said, referring to a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed that greenhouse gasses are pollutants under the Clean Air Act. “The EPA has huge authority here.”
Boxer, a California Democrat who as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee tried and failed to get a cap and trade bill through the Senate during President Obama’s first term, said former President George W. Bush “wasted eight years” arguing in court that CO2 is not a pollutant. She said she would block “as long as I have a breath” any effort by House Republicans to reverse the high court ruling through legislation.
She also opened the possibility of replacing the gasoline tax with a carbon tax at the source as part of a broader tax reform. The 18.4 cent gasoline tax is a kind of mini carbon tax, but the last time it was raised was in the Clinton administration. Boxer, along with both parties in Congress, has refused to raise the gasoline tax despite an urgent need for highway funds because the gas tax is extremely unpopular.
“There may be a way to do away with the gas tax at the pump if we do a carbon tax,” Boxer said. She conceded the unpopularity of a carbon tax in Congress but said it is “in the mix.” She argued that the gas tax is raising less money each year as fuel efficiency standards rise, noting that her plug-in hybrid gets 150 miles per gallon.
She said Obama “knows he’s going to be judged by history,” because someday “people are going to say they had a window to act” on CO2 emissions. The EPA is currently considering imposing CO2 emissions standards on existing electrical generation plants, which she said account for 35 percent of the nation’s CO2 emissions.
As for China, which has surpassed the United States in CO2 emissions, Boxer said pollution is so bad now that “you cannot see in China.” She recalled a 2011 trip she made there, where an official remarked that it was a beautiful day. “No it was not,” Boxer said. She argued that China will be forced to reduce its air pollution, and doing so will also reduce CO2 emissions.
She also said the United States should lead, rather than waiting for China. “We can’t say we won’t do anything until China does,” Boxer said. That would be like saying, “We won’t protect women until China does,” she argued, “Or we won’t have free speech until China does.”
She said she has no idea whom Obama will nominate as EPA administrator, now that Lisa Jackson is leaving. She also put in a plug for Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa as Secretary of Transportation.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, after supplying the majority of votes (172 to 85 from Republicans) for the fiscal cliff package late on New Year’s Day, took to the floor of the House Wednesday to chastise Republican leaders for refusing to bring up the Senate’s $60 billion disaster aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Looking a bit weary after a late night of political theatrics, Pelosi said denying a vote on the aid package is a betrayal of “real civility.”
If the House refuses to vote, a new aid package will have to be developed in the next Congress. Pelosi urged the House to vote while the Senate is still in session.
“Everyone who heard about this last night, said, ‘Don’t tell me that,” the San Francisco Democrat said. “Don’t tell me the House is not taking up the bill.”
“Much has been said about need for more civility in politics and government,” Pelosi said, including “how we speak to each to each other,” how members should try to “curb our enthusiasm” in debates, including questioning the motivation of others. But she said “real civility” is about how Congress treats people after a disaster, “the time when people feel the most helpless, when they see whether the government is there for them or not.”
Saying victims were hit by the power of “earth, wind and fire,” Pelosi said refusing to vote on the Senate bill is “just plain wrong.”
Republicans complained that the aid package includes extraneous pork, including $2 million for roof repairs at the Smithsonian and $150 million for fisheries in Mississippi and Alaska.
But Republicans from the storm-ravaged states were furious with their own leaders. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, said, “The conduct of the Republican leadership was disgraceful; it was indefensible; and it was immoral…We have a moral obligation—as Republicans, as Democrats, as Americans…We cannot believe that this cruel knife in the back was delivered to our region…Don’t walk out in the dark of night and ignore us.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential GOP presidential contender, blasted House Republicans in a string of tweets. A small sample: “We have been waiting six times longer than the victims of Katrina & there’s no end in site;” “66 days and counting. Shame on you. Shame on Congress.”
This just in from Speaker Boehner and majority whip Eric Cantor, R-VA: They will get “critical aid” to hurricane victims as “the first priority in the new Congress,” promising a House vote Friday on adding funds to the National Flood Insurance Program and on Jan. 15, the “first full legislative day of the 113th Congress, the House will consider the remaining supplemental request for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.”
Pelosi response: “Though it is good news that Republicans have announced their intention to bring up partial legislation covering $9 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief this Friday, it still leaves more than 80 percent of the region’s emergency needs unmet. Once again, the Republican leadership of the House has committed to putting forward another Sandy relief aid package in mid-January. We only hope that a large number of House Republicans join the large majority of Democrats in passing this critical legislation.”
NJ and NY are tired of being treated like second class citizens. We deserve better and America deserves better.
Most of the biggest political winners of 2012 didn’t even win an election this year: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards among them.
But it didn’t hurt if you won an election. Ask President Obama, who won a surprisingly large victory in the Electoral College. Or Texas Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, whose win was simply a huge surprise.
Here are our nominees for top political winners of the past year:
1. Barack Obama
No incumbent president with an unemployment rate as high as it is right now had won re-election since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now we can add Barack Obama to that list. The 44th president made history. Again. Instead of being the 21st century reincarnation of Jimmy Carter, the symbol of failed Democratic incumbents, Obama ended up as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
2. Chris Christie
Superstorm Sandy caused a massive amount of damage in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. But the aggressive, nonpartisan response of each state’s governor caused their popularity to soar. And nobody gained more than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose approval rate now tops 70 percent and is expected to breeze to re-election next year. He instantly became a top-tier presidential candidate for 2016. But we’re getting waaaaaay ahead of ourselves.
3. Hillary Clinton
Even the continuing controversy over the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi hasn’t done serious damage to the most p0pular member of President Obama’s Cabinet. Hillary Clinton insists she’s retiring after four years as Secretary of State, but political pundits have almost universally anointed her as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
4. Rand Paul
After just two years in the Senate, the conservative Republican from Kentucky has become the leader of Tea Party forces and the heir apparent to the libertarian movement long led by his father, retiring Rep. Ron Paul. For his newfound prominence, Rand Paul can thank South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint for resigning from the Senate. We’ll see soon enough if the younger Paul is angling for lasting legislative impact or a path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
5. Cecile Richards
If the National Rifle Association lost almost every hotly contested race it entered, Planned Parenthood got the best return on its political investment of any interest group in 2012. The organization’s CEO, Cecile Richards, should get most of the credit. Politically savvy and a strong communicator, the daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards is being touted as a future Democratic candidate in the Lone Star State. Slight problem. She works in New York.
6. Marco Rubio
The Florida freshman’s dynamic speech at the Republican National Convention — capped off by the story of his father, the banquet bartender — thrust him into the upper echelon of Republican rising stars. In reality, it’s a small firmament. With the GOP facing a massive challenge attracting Latino voters, the Cuban-American conservative could well be on the 2016 GOP White House ticket.
7. Julian Castro
Just eight years ago, a young Democratic National Convention keynote speaker made himself a national figure by wowing ‘em as an orator and political philosopher. That guy was Barack Obama. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, now 38, pulled off the same trick this past September. Rumors abound in Washington of a Clinton-Castro ticket in 2016. Premature? Of course. Plausible? Definitely.
8. Cory Booker
Is New Jersey big enough for two national political stars? Yes, siree! With Gov. Christie cruising to re-election, the popular Newark mayor has set his sights on the Senate seat now held by 88-year-old Democrat Frank Lautenberg. Booker, a master of social media and constituent services, would be a heavy favorite to win a Senate seat, his next step on the path to … the White House?
9. Barbara Mikulsi
She’s already the longest-serve female senator in American history. Following the recent death of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, Maryland legend Barbara Mikulski also became the most powerful woman in Senate history when she became chair of the (powerful) Senate Appropriations Committee. There’s not as much to spend as there used to be. But as the blue-collar pol from inner city Baltimore told TV station WJZ, “I’m that Highlandtown girl, I know how to shop for the bargains. We’re going to get a big bang for our buck.”
10. Ted Cruz
The 42-year-old lawyer from Houston went from national obscurity (except in constitutional conservative circles) to toast of the Right. He graced the cover of National Review en route to a stunning Republican runoff upset over well-financed (and well-known) Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. His path to prominence went through Tampa, where he delivered a highly praised speech to the Republican National Convention. He’ll arrive in Washington as a history-making figure: the first Hispanic senator in Texas history.
Elizabeth Warren, who ousted Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown to regain the Senate.
Tim Scott, who will become the first African American senator from the former Confederacy since Reconstruction.
Joaquin Castro, who will bring the San Antonio twins’ political mojo to DC.
Bill Clinton, perhaps the best presidential campaign surrogate of all time.
Dianne Feinstein, who used her post as Senate Intelligence Committee chair to stay in the headlines and will be at the center of 2013 gun-control debates.
It’s another beautiful December day in Washington.
And Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has sent his 21st letter requesting a hearing on climate change, this time on a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers that says we are on our way to a four degree centigrade world, and possibly six, instead of the two degree warming that governments hoped could be achieved. Find the other 20 letters here.
“It’s time to plan for a warmer world,” the report said. “We have passed a critical threshold.”
The PwC Low Carbon Economy Index 2012, called, “Too Late for Two Degrees?” estimates that the global economy would have to improve carbon intensity against a target budget by 5.1 percent every year from now until 2050 to limit warming to a tolerable two degrees. The best that has ever been achieved is 0.8 percent. “Governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2 degrees C appear highly unrealistic,” the report said.
Waxman notes that despite the enormous costs of limiting carbon dioxide emissions, it would be a lot cheaper than a catastrophic warming.
A World Bank report, “Turn Down the Heat” issued this month said scientists are now “nearly unanimously predicting” a four degree world, which the report describes in vivid detail. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim wrote in the forward, “It is my hope that this report shocks us into action.”
See comrade Peter Fimrite’s report today on Humboldt squid showing up far north of their range.
President Obama is battling with lawmakers over federal spending.
No, not the fiscal cliff.
And he’s not even battling Republicans.
The White House is jostling with lawmakers from the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut over how much of the tab for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts will be picked up by the feds.
Discussions have been going on for days. The governors of the affected states have requested $82 billion to clean up the storm damages and for infrastructure improvements to prepare for future storms.
White House officials expect Obama to send his proposal to Capitol Hill at the end of this week.
But on Wednesday the New York Times (an authoritative source for White House leaks) reported that Obama’s proposal to Congress will be about $50 billion. A huge amount of money, but not even close to what coast lawmakers have asked for.
The report has provoked disappointed reactions among senators of the affected states calling for more support by the administration. All six senators from the storm-ravaged states are Democrats, as are the vast majority of House members (including 100 percent of the Connecticut delegation).
The White House immediately called the New York Times report “premature speculation” and said the administration is currently working on the storm aid, so there’s no specific number yet.
Also on Wednesday, during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan repeated the White House’s statement and promised that the administration won’t forget about the damaged coast states.
Referring to the New York Times report, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “If that is the number, it is inadequate. It will not even go remotely far enough to meet the needs of New York.”
Not to mention Connecticut and New Jersey.
Secretary Donovan did say that the administration’s emergency aid bill will include funding for storm damage prevention, something New York lawmakers have been calling for.
How the bill will be financed — whatever amount it would cover — isn’t clear yet.
On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie met with Obama at the White House to talk about the issue. Afterwards, he went to Capitol Hill to assure the coast states’ needs will be heard.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will travel to Washington, D.C. on Monday to plead his case for a $42 billion appropriation from Superstorm Sandy, sources said.
Cuomo, a Democrat who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, has not visited Washington since taking office in 2011. Indeed, Cuomo makes a point of not leaving the Empire State: The only three trips that come to mind are his touch-and-go visit to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this September, flying to California for a same-sex marriage themed fundraiser in 2011 and a journey to Puerto Rico also that year to attend the annual Somos El Futuro conference.
An administration official confirmed the governor’s travel plans, but said his itinerary is not yet set. The delegation source said Cuomo is expected to meet with New York’s congressional representatives at some point in the day, but details were still being finalized. It’s unclear if Cuomo will meet with any administration officials or visit the White House.
On Monday, Cuomo huddled in his Manhattan office with Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as several representatives from areas most affected by the storm’s wrath. Cuomo has estimated Sandy’s costs at $50 billion.
The governor at first said the state would seek a $30 billion appropriation from Congress to supplement normal reimbursements paid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But that figure lingered in the public arena for over a week without any specific request attached to it. On Monday, Cuomo outlined $32 billion in reimbursement requests related to the recovery efforts as well as another $9 billion for projects that will rebuild and strengthen New York’s infrastructure.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers on Wednesday.
Cuomo has said the state faces a hostile political climate in Washington for its aid request. While he crafted his own list of needs by consulting with New York officials, he subsequently issued joint statements with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat.
Congress is in session through the end of the year as lawmakers negotiate ways to reduce the long-term deficit and avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” It’s unclear when federal lawmakers may take up a supplemental aid package, or when it will be codified into legislation.
The Washington policy machine is all atwitter with the idea that the carbon tax’s time has come. It is an elegant three-run homer that would tackle climate change, tax reform and the budget deficit in one fell swoop. It would meet the conservatives’ quest for consumption taxes, the liberals’ quest for new revenues and the economist’s quest for market efficiency.
Some of the biggest policy players in Washington are holding an all-day event on carbon taxes today, sponsored by the liberal Brookings Institution and the conservative American Enterprise Institute, with co-sponsorship by the International Monetary Fund and the non-partisan Resources for the Future. Here’s a list of RFF’s papers.
This modest proposal, to borrow from Jonathan Swift, has so alarmed Grover Norquist that he has launched a counter-offensive. Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (should we add “not” before “for”?) vowed to “work tirelessly” against any carbon tax because it “not only opens up a new revenue stream for proponents of big government, but threatens to forever damage the American economy.”
Conservative cavalry has arrived from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has filed a lawsuit “to force the Treasury Department to release more than 7,300 emails believed to discuss a new ‘carbon tax’ Obama administration allies in Congress are expected to propose in the upcoming lame duck session.”
Obviously, a carbon tax would address climate change much more efficiently than any cap-and-trade scheme that attempts to put a price on carbon but gets tangled very fast in industry/political maneuvering, ala the House bill that died in Obama’s first term. California launches its landmark cap and trade auction Wednesday. A carbon tax also would raise revenue that could be used to reduce the deficit and/or lower income taxes. Conservative economists have long argued that income taxes punish work and savings and that taxes on consumption are preferable.
Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, told us today that there’s an even simpler first step sitting right in Washington’s lap. It’s called the gasoline tax and it hasn’t been raised since 1994. Atkinson calculates that the gas tax, now at 18.4 cents a gallon, costs Americans about one third as much as it did when it was enacted in 1994, given inflation, increases in fuel economy and rising incomes.
But it never gets raised no matter how many hurricanes annihilate New Jersey and Long Island, no matter how many bridges fall down and no matter how big the debt burden on the next generation, because Democrats and Republicans, reflecting public sentiment, view the gasoline tax as the next worst thing to child bondage.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave a pretty hard shove to Norquist the day after the election when he abandoned the stand that tax reform be revenue neutral. That was a huge give that has opened the door in Washington to a new grand bargain. Every interest group in town is maneuvering as we speak.