Saturday :: Apr 9, 2005

With National Security Now An Issue, Would The Senate Raise Fuel Economy Standards?

by Steve

I've written several times over the last week on gas prices and a growing bipartisan concern that as a matter of national security the United States must reduce its consumption of foreign oil. The concern is coming from a group of national security, political, and military leaders from the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton administrations, who all believe that our reliance on foreign oil supplies from unstable parts of the world, coupled with a runaway domestic demand for oil had made us very unsafe economically.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were set back in the 1970's, but efforts to raise such standards were blocked by Newt Gingrich's GOP House in 1995 for the remainder of the decade. An effort to break this freeze on raising the CAFE standards in 1999 were dealt a blow when continuing the ban was attached to the annual transportation budget, forcing Clinton to sign the bill and thereby losing a last chance to lift the ban on raising the fuel standards before the 2000 elections.

As recently as 2002, a bill by John Kerry and John McCain would have raised the standards, but an amendment by Democratic senator and car industry whore Carl Levin removed the higher standards and was passed, throwing the job of setting unspecified standards to the industry-friendly Bush Administration by the end of 2005. Note that 15 current Democratic senators voted against higher fuel economy standards just two years ago, but that six brave GOP senators voted against the White House.

A lot has changed in the last two years. National security and our energy supplies are a major issue, as is how our unbridled consumption of imported oil has made us vulnerable in so many ways. If you do the math, you will see that even if every Democratic senator on the list of 15 below except Levin and 2006 candidate Debbie Stabenow voted for higher CAFE standards, Harry Reid would still need to keep the rest of his caucus intact while keeping the 6 GOP votes with him, but he would only have 49 votes.

Democrats Who Voted Against CAFE In 2002:

Blanche Lincoln AR
Tom Carper DE
Evan Bayh IN
Mary Landrieu LA
Barbara Mikulski MD
Carl Levin MI
Debbie Stabenow MI
Max Baucus MT
Kent Conrad ND
Byron Dorgan ND
Ben Nelson NE
Tim Johnson SD
Russ Feingold WI
Herb Kohl WI
Robert Byrd WV

Note that there are several 2008 Democratic hopefuls on that list.

The following GOP Senators voted for CAFE and bravely against the White House:

John McCain AZ
Susan Collins ME
Olympia Snowe ME
Judd Gregg NH
Gordon Smith OR
Lincoln Chafee RI

Reid would need to pull several new GOP votes to CAFE in this new national security environment from a list that would include George Voinovich of Ohio (big automaking industry), Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Charles Grassley, and Arlen Specter.

Could Reid swing it in this new environment?

Steve :: 12:25 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!