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What's Dingell Up To?

This is pretty deep in the weeds, but Dave Roberts and Brian Beutler are trying to figure out what John Dingell's up to with his new carbon-tax proposal. Is he trying to squelch the idea once and for all by throwing it out there and watching the the public recoil in horror, at which point he'll pronounce drastic emissions cuts politically impossible? Or is this his subtle way of telling liberal Dems to either put up or shut up about his committee being too meek on global warming?

I don't know what he's thinking. Dave makes a good case for the latter. On the other hand, though, if Dingell was really serious about giving a carbon tax a fair chance, it seems like he'd give it his best shot and put forward a proposal that was as palatable as possible--coupling it with a rebate on payroll taxes, say--and work privately to bring other key Dems on board. He wouldn't just say, "Fine, here's your goddamn carbon tax--not that you jerks will support it anyway," and then, when enthusiasm predictably fails to muster, give up on the idea. But isn't he basically doing the latter?

Anyway, Dingell's a very shrewd legislator who knows better than most how to get things done, and it's great that he's putting a bold climate-change proposal on the table. But it does seem like there's an air of disingenuousness about the way he's going about things. The Grist commenters make an analogy to HillaryCare, and I think that's apt: If you present a major policy proposal in a ham-fisted way, the resulting backlash can kill all support for the underlying idea, even if it might've succeeded with a better roll-out.

That said, if Dingell's new climate bill really is everything environmentalists want, then they should probably stop fretting so much about whether he's sincere and start trying to drum up as much support as possible for the thing when it comes out, no?

--Bradford Plumer