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Analyzing The House Vote On Waxman-markey

Over at National Journal, Ronald Brownstein has a great rundown of last Friday's House vote on the Waxman-Markey climate bill. Not shockingly, pure political considerations mattered most: By my count, of the 219 "yes" votes, 198 came from districts Obama won last November. Of the 212 "no" votes, 170 came from McCain districts. Indeed, seven of the eight Republicans who voted "aye" hailed from Obama districts—and some of them, including Illinois's Mark Kirk and Delaware's Mike Castle, are gearing up for a blue-state Senate run. (The only other Republican yes-vote was Mary Bono Mack, who comes from a California district with a ton of renewable energy resources.)

The other big factor was coal, although it seemed to matter somewhat less than the red-state/blue-state divide:

Thirty of the 121 Democrats from states that generate at least 40 percent of their power from coal voted against the bill; just 14 of the 134 Democrats from states that are less reliant on coal joined them in opposition. That means about one-in-four of the coal state Democrats voted no, compared to only a little over one-in-10 of everyone else.

It's actually noteworthy, though, to see how many coal-state Democrats voted for the bill. That's mostly because Henry Waxman and Rick Boucher bent over backward to make concessions for the coal industry—for instance, giving allowances away to local electric-distribution outfits so as to cushion the blow for ratepayers that get much of their power from burning coal. Environmental groups decried these measures, and there's certainly much to grumble about, but given that only a thimbleful of Republicans were going to vote for the bill, it's hard to see how any climate bill ever passes without concessions to coal-staters.

Looking on to the Senate, there are a whole heap of coal-state senators nervous about how a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions will affect their district. As soon as the House bill passed, Claire McCaskill wrote, "I hope we can fix cap and trade so it doesn't unfairly punish businesses and families in coal dependent states like Missouri." As Waxman proved in the House, it's possible to design a climate bill that can allay those concerns and satisfy coal-state Dems. The question is whether there's anyone in the Senate who can handle these delicate negotiations as deftly as Waxman did, while still ensuring that the bill isn't crippled to the point of uselessness.

--Bradford Plumer