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Boxer Avoids The Baucus Trap

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Today, Sen. Barbara Boxer rammed through the Environment and Public Works Committee her version of clean energy jobs and climate protection legislation without any amendments, in order to circumvent the Republican boycott of the committee proceedings.

There's no way that bill will become law without further changes, but Boxer did exactly what needed to be done to get any bill passed.

Already we are hearing the tut-tutting. CQ speculated that Boxer risked "alienating Republicans and frustrating moderate Democrats." Primary candidate for compromise GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham declared he would have opposed the Boxer bill if he was on the committee.

None of that matters. In fact, the supposed friction is probably helping.

As we learned in the health care debate, what happens at the committee level is far from the final word. Multiple committees weigh in, and at the end of the day, the congressional leaders and White House make the last calls before sending legislation to the floor of each branch of Congress. The tricky part is just getting through the slog of the committee process, so you can get to point where the top folks can make the last calls.

Sen. Max Baucus failed to understand this. He wasted everyone's time futilely negotiating with people who fundamentally disagreed with the entire premise of reform, giving opponents extra time to organize and spread misinformation.

Sen. Boxer today essentially said, I'm not going to waste everybody's time.

She got her homework done ahead of schedule. One more committee down. The process moves forward.

The fact that so-called moderates will complain about the Boxer bill is simply an additional opportunity to portray the expected "tripartisan" compromise from Sens. John Kerry, Lindsey Grahan and Joe Lieberman -- talks clearly blessed by the Senate leadership and the White House -- as an politically safer alternative.

If Boxer's move somehow made those three scrap their talks -- and getting Graham on board at this point is the only possible way the Senate is going find 50 votes let alone 60 for a carbon cap -- then you could say Boxer was politically reckless. But nothing of the sort is happening.

One can only hope the other relevant committee chairs learn from her example.

Unfortunately, one of the committees with jurisdiction is the Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Baucus. And because he didn't get a chance to pass his amendments today, he voted "No" in Boxer's committee.

Something tells me he still doesn't get it.

Originally posted at OurFuture.org

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