Monday, May 18, 2009

The Daily Strike-5/18/09-Bibi and CAFE

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. A somewhat quiet day for the President, and Congress not really getting going until tomorrow, meaning tonight's entry will be short.

NETANYAHU: The President this morning met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Two headlines emerged out of the meeting. First, the President announced that the United States will engage with Iran sometime after their June elections. Obama assured Netanyahu that the U.S. was not afraid to take big steps if Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, including tougher sanctions (notably, he did not say a military option, but I think it's safe to assume that subject came up). The two leaders also talked, as expected, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama apparently tried to convince Netanyahu that a road map to peace requires the Israelis to give up settlements in the West Bank, and give attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Netanyahu gave no commitments, unfortunately. He just gave some vague assurances that Israel and the Palestinians can live side-by-side. He said that he hopes Palestinians are "ready to do their share." I wish Netanyahu had lost the election. He's not going to be good for the peace process.

CAFE STANDARDS: The President will announce plans tomorrow for national fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards. The significance of tomorrow's announcement is that it brings emissions limits on autos, enacted in 2007, in line with the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas standards. Accordingly, car companies will have more certainty on future restrictions. The President's plan has won support from a wide variety of stakeholders, including automakers and state governments.

This announcement comes in conjunction this week with important H0use Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on an energy bill in the House sponsored by Reps. Waxman (D-CA) and Markey (D-MA). The Waxman-Markey bill would enact a modified version of "cap-and-trade" policy, where polluters would be required to obtain emissions permits from the government. The amount of permits available would decrease gradually overtime. Money saved by selling these emissions permits would be redirected to help bring down energy costs for consumers.

The bill is the result of weeks of negotiations among liberals Waxman and Markey, and more conservative "blue dog" Democrats. The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the end of the week and could come to the House floor for a vote soon after the Memorial Day recess. The math of getting the bill through the committee is difficult. Republicans will undoubtedly oppose the bill for a number of reasons. For one, a lot of them don't think global warming is a problem. In fact, 22 of the 23 Republicans on the committee will almost certainly oppose the bill. On the Democratic side, most of the 36 members of the committee have pledged support. About 10 or so remain officially undecided. Democrats can, at most, afford to lose about 6 votes in committee. My guess is that Waxman and Markey would not have brought the bill up in committee if they didn't think it would pass. Paul Krugman wrote a column today in the New York Times offering praise for the bill. That, in my mind, proves the bill's reach and potential impact on our economy and environment. We'll keep you posted on the hearings as they develop this week.

That's it for tonight. See you tomorrow!!

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