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Renewable Energy Standard Will Need Major GOP Support to Pass

Though the Senate has four Republican co-sponsors on a relatively weak renewable energy standard, Brad Plumer writes that they’d need more to pass anything:

It’s possible, but the odds are still extremely long. And four Republican co-sponsors won’t be enough. “Realistically, this bill will need at least a half-dozen Republicans actively supporting it,” says Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress. For one, a bunch of Senate Democrats flatly oppose an RES, including Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln. Second, if this bill doesn’t come up until the lame duck session after the midterms, there’s going to be enormous pressure on Republicans from the Senate leadership not to cooperate on anything. Which means it’ll need an even bigger critical mass of support.

Are there other potential Republican co-sponsors lurking out there? The names most commonly kicked around are Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and, as a long shot, maybe even John Thune (South Dakota has a lot of wind-power potential, and the state already has a voluntary goal of 10 percent renewable by 2015). One complication, though, is that the bill’s strongest GOP advocate, Sam Brownback, is almost certainly going to get elected governor of Kansas in November, and he’ll be busy with the transition during the Senate’s lame-duck session. Also note that two states, Illinois and West Virginia, would seat their senators immediately after the election, so if Republicans win either of those seats, the lame-duck vote gets tougher.

Delaware does too, and Chris Coons would certainly be a Yes on this bill, with Christine O’Donnell certainly a No. I don’t think West Virginia matters either way, I’d guess that Joe Manchin or John Raese would be No votes. And Mark Kirk would potentially be a Yes, while Alexi Giannoulias would certainly vote Yes. So the flip would be -2, potentially -1.

The fact that Brownback might not even come back to Washington a whole lot to pass this bill is a pretty crushing blow for it.

I’ve slagged this bill previously, but I suppose it would open up the Southeast to at least make an effort on renewable energy, which is positive. So it’s worth doing, maybe. But with a Democratic caucus that includes members so wedded to Big Oil that they take hostages among Presidential appointees to pry open offshore drilling markets, I’m not entirely sanguine that this will have much of a chance.

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David Dayen

David Dayen