The latest National Journal/Pew Research poll reveals,
predictably, that “the job situation” (81 percent) is the most important issue for Americans these days. Coming in second, Americans’ viewed “the country’s energy needs,” (67 percent) not to be confused with “climate change” (32 percent). Given the huge disparity between these two often conflated topics it is surprising that recent legislation, Waxman-Markey in the House last year and Kerry-Lieberman in the Senate these days, makes no distinction between climate change and the country’s energy needs.

Certainly, it would be possible to pass smaller bipartisan legislation that addresses the country’s energy needs, a nuclear power bill, perhaps, for a public concerned about this issue. So why hasn’t this happened? Politics. Were a nuclear energy bill signed into law, it would reduce the leverage Democrats have over Republicans as they could no longer include nuclear power provisions in their climate bills. We saw the same thing happen during the health care debate. If a bill came to the floor that allowed people to purchase health insurance across state lines it would pass. But again, then Republicans would be less inclined to vote for the Democrat health care bill.

There are many drawbacks to the legislative style employed by the majority in power. First, it is confusing. The Kerry-Lieberman bill is over a thousand pages. Incremental legislation would be transparent and simple. Second, it prolongs the legislative process. Simpler legislation, by its nature, is easier to pass or kick to the curb. The month long debates about health care were due to its convoluted nature. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see smaller, simpler legislation because it makes it impossible for Democrats to hide many of their unpopular initiatives.   

So while Democrats try to find enough energy provisions to include in their climate change legislation to get them 60 votes, the American people are left without a comprehensive energy plan.