As House Climate Bill Passes, GOP Parties Like It's 1993

June 29, 2009

As Democrats and the White House cheered House passage Friday of a comprehensive climate and energy bill, Republicans were hustling to portray the vote as a political weapon that would allow them to regain large numbers of House seats in 2010.

The minority party’s push began well before the climate legislation reached the floor, as Republicans spent weeks trying to break moderate Democrats from the Midwest and agricultural states from their party’s leadership.

Their efforts failed to bring down the bill itself, but Republican leaders made clear that they believe the floor vote will be seen as a long-term political victory for their party.

As the House’s presiding officer read the final 219-212 tally in favor of the Democratic bill on Friday, Republicans applauded and chanted ‘Btu, Btu!’ — a reference to a 1993 energy bill pushed by the Clinton administration that cleared the House, then ran aground. Some say Democratic backing for that bill laid the groundwork for the Republican landslide House election in 1994 that ended a half-century of Democratic rule.

“No question that there are going to be very dire consequences for those who voted for this bill,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

And Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) declared, “I think many of us think this is the beginning of the end of their majority. I think it’s that far over the top.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly pounced on the results with a barrage of press releases targeting Democrats who voted for the bill. One went to the districts of 44 House Democrats, accusing them of voting for “higher costs, higher unemployment.”

“Frank Kratovil’s vote to kill jobs in his district and hand his constituents higher costs during these difficult times is nothing short of insulting,” NRCC communications director Ken Spain said in a release that went to the district of the first-term Maryland Democrat.

“The people of Maryland sent Frank Kratovil to Washington to represent their values and restore prosperity, and he has returned the favor by once again bowing to his party bosses at the expense of middle class families. Unfortunately for Kratovil, he will have to answer to Maryland voters rather than Nancy Pelosi when Election Day rolls around.”

Another release targeted seven Democrats — including several freshmen — who had at various points criticized the legislation but ultimately voted for it.

Certainly, there have been other issues that Republicans have tried to use to turn public opinion against the Obama administration and congressional Democrats — namely, the bailouts of major U.S. automakers, the perceived failures of the economic stimulus package and early shots on health-care reform.

But top Republicans say the climate bill may be the first defining vote of the 111th Congress — one that can be used to campaign against what they hope voters see as an overreaching Democratic majority.

“These are votes that people will remember,” said Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a former House Republican Whip and the current front-runner for the Republican nomination in Missouri’s 2010 U.S. Senate race…
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