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Neugebauer to step down in CD19

At least one Congressional seat will have a new person sitting in it next year.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in 2016.

Neugebauer, who has represented his West Texas district in Congress since 2003, plans to finish his current term.

“To say that this has been an honor would be an understatement,” Neugebauer said in a statement. “Representing the citizens of the Big Country and West Texas has been one of the most rewarding times in my life.”

[…]

Buzz had been mounting in recent months that Neugebauer was planning to retire. Texas’ Congressional District 19 is expected to stay in Republican hands, and the primary will all but determine who will follow Neugebauer in Congress.

Immediate speculation for possible successors centered on state Sen. Charles Perry and state Rep. Dustin Burrows — both Lubbock Republicans — as well as Lubbock attorney Allen Adkins. Other names include Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson; Tom Sell, the managing partner of Combest, Sell and Associates; and former Texas Tech Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington.

Perry does not plan to run for the seat, according to Jordan Berry, his political consultant.

Asked about his interest in the seat, Burrows issued a statement that did not rule out a run.

“Today is Congressman Neugebauer’s day to enjoy the knowledge that he’ll no longer need to commute to Washington, D.C., and to revel in a career protecting West Texas from an overreaching federal government,” Burrows said. “On behalf of West Texans and the Burrows family, we thank him for his service to our nation.”

[…]

Tea Party groups have struggled to oust federal incumbents in Texas, and organizations like the Madison Project say they see an opportunity in open-seat races like this one now is, setting up a potential clash between the Tea Party and an establishment candidate.

“I think the Washington establishment is always going to get want who they think they can get, and the local establishment is going to want who they want, and it will not always gel with the Washington establishment,” Berry said.

“The conservative base may want something completely different,” he added. “This could go several different ways.”

This primary will also take place on March 1, when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative favorite, is poised to be on the ballot in the presidential race. Neugebauer’s son Toby has emerged as one of the top donors to Cruz’s presidential effort, giving $10 million to a super PAC supporting the senator. Toby Neugebauer, co-founder of the Houston private-equity firm Quantum Energy Partners, was recently replaced by evangelical leader David Barton as the head of a cluster of pro-Cruz groups.

Yeah, I think we see how this is likely to go. Neugebauer wasn’t exactly the brightest light out there, but it seems fair to say that our Congressional delegation is about to get dimmer. And louder.

This may have the effect of creating another vacancy in the House – it would appear unlikely to create on in the Senate as well, as Sen. Perry would have to give up his seat to try for CD19, and it looks like he’s not interested in that – but the vacancy it’s creating in Congress is a relative rarity in Texas. Here’s a list of the members of Congress as of January, 2005, and the same list as of January, 2015:

Dist 2005 2015 ============================ 01 Gohmert Gohmert 02 Poe Poe 03 Johnson Johnson 04 Hall Ratcliffe 05 Hensarling Hensarling 06 Barton Barton 07 Culberson Culberson 08 Brady Brady 09 Green Green 10 McCall McCall 11 Conaway Conaway 12 Granger Granger 13 Thornberry Thornberry 14 Paul Weber 15 Hinojosa Hinojosa 16 Reyes O'Rourke 17 Edwards Flores 18 Jackson Lee Jackson Lee 19 Neugebauer Neugebauer 20 Gonzalez Castro 21 Smith Smith 22 DeLay Olson 23 Bonilla Hurd 24 Marchant Marchant 25 Doggett Williams 26 Burgess Burgess 27 Ortiz Farenthold 28 Cuellar Cuellar 29 Green Green 30 Johnson Johnson 31 Carter Carter 32 Sessions Sessions

Of the 32 seats that existed in 2005, 23 have the same incumbent now, with one of those incumbents from 2005 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett) moving to a different district thanks to redistricting. Of the eight who are no longer in Congress, only Ron Paul, who stepped down in 2012 to run for President, and Charlie Gonzalez, who retired in 2012, left on their own terms. Tom DeLay resigned in 2006 under the cloud of indictment. Ralph Hall (2014) and Silvestre Reyes (2012) lost in primaries, while Henry Bonilla (2006), Chet Edwards (2010), and Solomon Ortiz (2010) lost in general elections. We’ve seen a lot of turnover in recent years in the State House, but the US House in Texas is a different story. Trail Blazers and Juanita have more.

Interview with Joaquin Castro

Joaquin Castro

Texas will elect at least six new members of Congress this year, as there are four new seats and two members have retired. Contested primaries may produce other new members, but for sure there will be six new faces. We don’t know who most of them will be yet, but one name we can pencil in now is that of State Rep. Joaquin Castro, who is running to succeed Rep. Charlie Gonzalez in CD20. Castro, who has no primary opponent and is a heavy favorite in the general election, is a five-term State Rep from San Antonio (HD125) who was the Vice Chair of the Higher Education committee this past term; he also served on the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence and Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency committees. Thanks to his favorable campaign conditions and his early fundraising success borne of a pre-interim map challenge to Rep. Lloyd Doggett in CD35, Castro has been tapped by the DCCC to help win back the House for the Dems this fall. We had a lot to talk about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Texas Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

The Congressional Geezer Caucus

The DMN notices that a sizable portion of Texas’ Congressional delegation is, um, old.

Of the most populous states, Texas has the oldest congressional delegation, averaging nearly 63 years old, while the average for Congress as a whole is about 58.

North Texas accounts for a big slice of that, paced by Hall, a Republican who is the House’s oldest member; Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano ; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas; Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth; and GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, of Dallas.

It’s a record of longevity, solidified by one-sided districts, smart hometown politics and relatively satisfied voters who don’t often kick out incumbents.

That the state sends an older group to Congress is especially striking because Texas has the nation’s second-youngest population, with a median age of 33.6.

[…]

Moving forward, it doesn’t seem likely that the Texas delegation will get much younger any time soon.

Most of the older representatives are in safe seats. And several of the more prominent members — including Sen. John Cornyn, and Dallas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions — are only in their mid-50s to early 60s — prime years by congressional standards.

Still, the 2012 races may knock Texas off the top of the gray-hair rankings, because it is gaining four new House seats, giving the state 36.

And three of its oldest members — Paul, Hutchison and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, of San Antonio — are not seeking re-election, although the front-runner for Hutchison’s seat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would be 67 if he wins.

Being in a safe seat makes partisan turnover unlikely, but it does nothing to protect an incumbent from a primary challenge. Take a look at the list of Teaxs’ oldest Congressional members, included at the end of the story:

AT A GLANCE: Oldest Texans in Congress

Rep. Ralph Hall, 88, R-Rockwall
Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas
Rep. Ron Paul, 76, R-Lake Jackson
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, 71, D-Mercedes
Rep. John Carter, 70, R-Round Rock
Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, R-Dallas
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, 67, D-El Paso
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, D-San Antonio

As noted, Paul, KBH, and Gonzalez are retiring. As with KBH and Dewhurst, the leading contender for Paul’s seat, Nick Lampson, is someone who won’t bring the average age down that much. But with Joaquin Castro set to step in for Gonzalez, there’s at least some movement in the youth direction.

What the story did not note was that every single non-retiring incumbent on that list has at least one primary challenger. Two of them, Reps. Reyes and EB Johnson, have challengers who have a big money PAC supporting them; the challengers in those cases, Beto O’Rourke and Taj Clayton, are both 40 and under. You can see who the Democratic challengers are here, and who the Republicans are here. I don’t know anything about these folks, including how old they are, and a quick check on the FEC campaign finance reports page suggests that none of the others have any juice, but you never know. There’s more potential for change now than you might think, and projecting forward I’d say it’s a safe bet that the delegation will look a lot different after the 2021 reapportionment and the 2022 election that follows it.

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez to retire

As the story says, it’s the end of an era.

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez said Friday he will not seek re-election, a decision that will end the congressional tenure of a Democratic family whose name has been synonymous with the city of San Antonio for more than half a century.

[…]

His decision not to run for another term ends nearly 50 years of representation by the Gonzalez family.

It also presents a political opportunity to state Rep. Joaquín Castro, twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro. The Democrat likely will seek Gonzalez’s 20th Congressional District seat, his spokesman Cary Clack said.

Former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, another Democrat, is eyeing the newly redrawn 35th district in which Castro originally intended to run.

“It’s about having lived in this district almost my entire life,” said Rodriguez, who previously served in the 28th district before being ousted by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and in the 23rd district before losing to Rep. Quico Canseco, R-San Antonio.

And just like that, the redrawn Congressional map may have eliminated the need for two potentially contentious Democratic primaries. In the case of Doggett versus Castro, that’s surely a good thing, as it will avoid a ton of bad karma and hurt feelings. In the case of Ciro Rodriguez and Pete Gallego, who now has a clear path to the CD23 nomination, it may or may not be so good, as a primary would have helped Gallego raise his name ID and get him up to speed for this next level. On balance, it’s probably a positive, but you can make a case the other way.

The Trib confirms that the dominoes will fall as described by the story, so this gives Texas Democrats a good chance to boost its bench without losing Doggett’s strong progressive voice. It will be interesting to see if Castro will represent a leftward move from Gonzalez, who was a strong voice on a number of issues but typically “centrist” on things like the environment. Regardless, it’s better to have the open seat in a Presidential year, when turnout should not be an issue. I thank Rep. Gonzalez for his service and wish him well in whatever comes next. BOR and News Taco have more.

Congressional map gets final approval

On to the Governor.

The Republican-controlled Texas Senate approved a new congressional district map for the state Monday and sent it to Gov. Rick Perry for his approval.

[…]

The map was approved 19-12 along party lines and without debate. Democrats have complained the new map violates the federal Voting Rights Act by splitting Latino and black communities and diluting their voting power.

If Perry, a Republican, signs the map into law, it will go to the Department of Justice for review. The Voting Rights Act requires Texas to make sure the map does not diminish minority representation.

Far as I know, the map is the same as the one the House approved last week. Here’s a final look at the numbers, with districts sorted into those drawn to be Republican seats and those drawn to be Democratic. First, numbers we’re familiar with, from the 2008 elections:

Dist Obama Houston =================== 01 30.4 36.4 02 35.9 36.7 03 37.4 36.8 04 29.3 37.6 05 37.3 42.0 06 42.5 45.4 07 39.1 37.8 08 26.1 29.4 10 42.6 43.2 11 23.1 27.5 12 44.2 44.8 13 22.2 27.5 14 42.0 47.3 17 40.9 44.1 19 27.9 32.3 21 42.2 40.2 22 37.6 38.3 23 47.5 49.6 24 40.5 39.9 25 42.7 43.5 26 38.7 38.9 27 40.1 45.8 31 42.5 42.4 32 43.8 43.7 33 41.7 43.0 36 29.6 39.3 09 76.5 76.8 15 57.3 60.0 16 64.4 66.5 18 79.6 78.7 20 59.1 59.5 28 60.0 62.7 29 64.6 69.7 30 81.8 82.0 34 60.0 63.6 35 63.2 63.1

As observed before, all downballot Dems but one carried CD23 in 2008, with two of them getting a clear majority. This district is definitely winnable and should be a top target in 2012. Other districts bear watching and deserve willing challengers, but may not be ready to turn. Joe Barton’s millions will make CD06 a tough nut to crack even as it keeps getting bluer.

I’ve done most of my analysis on the 2008 elections, since the first election after redistricting will be a Presidential year election, and I wanted to compare apples to apples. But let’s take a look at some non-Presidential year numbers to see what they tell us as well:

2010 2010 2010 2006 Dist White LCT BAR Moody ============================= 01 31.5 23.8 23.2 37.1 02 36.3 27.5 26.4 35.5 03 33.6 26.6 27.5 34.2 04 32.9 24.1 23.3 43.2 05 38.3 28.9 28.8 43.5 06 41.9 35.2 34.4 45.4 07 40.5 28.9 28.3 37.4 08 27.1 19.0 18.0 32.7 10 41.2 31.8 30.7 46.3 11 23.9 16.8 15.7 33.1 12 41.7 35.6 34.6 46.7 13 24.7 16.5 15.6 34.0 14 41.8 34.7 33.6 50.6 17 41.2 31.6 30.3 47.3 19 28.1 19.5 18.2 36.5 21 38.8 30.7 29.3 43.7 22 37.3 29.1 27.6 38.3 23 43.8 37.8 34.8 51.1 24 36.2 29.0 29.5 38.4 25 41.4 32.4 31.3 47.9 26 34.6 27.8 27.6 39.3 27 40.0 32.2 29.4 49.9 31 36.6 29.5 27.8 41.9 32 42.1 33.0 35.3 43.3 33 39.5 33.1 31.9 43.0 36 32.8 24.8 23.4 44.4 09 76.6 72.8 71.2 73.9 15 53.7 49.4 45.7 55.5 16 60.0 54.8 53.1 69.8 18 79.6 73.8 72.8 78.6 20 57.1 51.4 46.8 62.1 28 59.0 53.5 50.3 61.5 29 69.1 63.9 61.3 69.0 30 81.1 78.4 77.1 79.2 34 55.7 52.2 46.8 62.2 35 59.9 53.6 50.1 65.5

White is Bill White, LCT is Linda Chavez-Thompson, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Lt. Gov., BAR is Barbara Radnofsky, the 2010 nominee for Attorney General, and Moody is Bill Moody, who ran for State Supreme Court in 2006 (and in 2002 and 2010, but never mind that for now). White was by far the top Democratic votegetter in 2010, earning about 400,000 more votes than most of the rest of the Dems, all of which came out of Rick Perry’s totals. Radnofsky was the Democratic low scorer, as Greg Abbott topped the GOP field – he had about 115,000 more votes than Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst – and won a few crossover votes of his own in doing so. Moody was the top Dem in 2006.

BAR’s numbers represent a worst case scenario. Three districts drawn for Democrats – Ruben Hinojosa’s CD15, Charlie Gonzalez’s CD20, and the “new” CD34 (which is really Solomon Ortiz’s old district with a different number) would fall under these conditions. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that BAR lost by over 30 points. LCT, who lost by “only” 27 points, won all 10 of these districts; she didn’t get a majority in CD15 but she did carry it by two points and about 2,000 votes. Barring a repeat of 2010 or unfavorable demographic changes, these districts should continue to lean Democratic even in bad years. That said, if I had absolute control over who ran for what, I’d give serious thought to finding a successor for the 71-year-old financially troubled Rep. Hinojosa, on the theory that it’s better to defend an open seat in a year where the wind will probably be at your back than in a year where maybe it won’t be.

I included Moody’s 2006 numbers because I wanted to show what things might look like in a year where Republican turnout isn’t crazy off-the-scale high. The comparison is a bit skewed because the 2008 and 2010 reports from the Texas Legislative Council include third-party candidate, but reports from before then do not. There was a Libertarian candidate in the Moody-Don Willett race in 2006, and that candidate got about 4%, so Moody’s numbers here are all a bit high. Still, you see that he won CD23, lost CD27 by a hair (less than 300 votes), and – surprise! – won CD14. I still believe that the underlying fundamentals of that district are going the wrong way, but who knows? The right candidate with the right message could make life interesting in 2014.

I will have one more thing to say about these numbers in a future post, but for now that about closes the books, at least until the Justice Department and eventually the courts have their say. Remember, if history is any guide, we’ll have some new districts to play with in 2016. You can see the 2010 report here, the 2008 report here, and the 2006 report here; my thanks to Greg for sharing them with me. The Lone Star Project has more.

House Redistricting committee approves modified Congressional map

Even quicker than the Senate committee.

The Texas House Redistricting Committee approved a new version of the Congressional map that makes a few tweaks, mainly in North and South Texas. But the overall goal remains the same: Maintain and expand Republican power in Washington.

The map was approved on an 11-5 party line vote in the committee, sending it to the full House. The map looks very much like the one that sailed out of the Senate Monday. But this new version would slightly reduce Hispanic voting strength in the district represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, who faces a potentially stiff re-match in 2012 from former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat.

The author of the map, Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, said the change was a response to “concerns of the San Antonio Hispanic community” and is meant to shore up Latino voting strength in the district held by Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio. It does that by taking Latinos from surrounding districts, including District 23 held by Canseco and a newly proposed District 35.

State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said the changes were designed to protect Canseco, easily the most vulnerable Republican in the Congressional delegation.

“They switched some Hispanic and Anglo voters around to make the district safer for Canseco, and make it easier for Anglo voters to control the district,” Veasey said.

The House version of the map would also switch around some precincts in Tarrant and Denton Counties, changes that Veasey said would help shore up the re-election prospects of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

Postcards has more. I guess I was expecting them to hold a public hearing with testimony or something before they actually voted. Silly me. The new plan is C149. Here’s what the partisan numbers look like now, with comparisons to the original plan and the one that the Senate approved:

C125 C130 C149 C125 C130 C149 Dist Obama Obama Obama Houston Houston Houston ==================================================== 01 30.40 30.47 30.47 37.01 36.39 36.39 02 35.39 35.86 35.86 38.14 36.65 36.65 03 37.37 37.37 37.37 36.79 36.79 36.79 04 29.28 29.28 29.28 37.55 37.55 37.55 05 37.31 37.28 37.21 42.07 42.05 42.01 07 39.32 39.08 39.08 38.10 37.83 37.83 08 25.43 26.08 26.14 28.59 29.40 29.44 11 23.42 23.13 23.13 28.44 28.29 28.29 13 22.24 22.24 22.24 27.48 27.48 27.48 14 34.30 41.96 41.96 39.69 47.31 47.31 19 27.94 27.94 27.94 32.32 32.32 32.32 22 35.80 37.65 37.65 36.92 38.32 38.32 26 39.44 39.33 39.33 39.64 39.64 39.55 06 41.67 41.67 42.51 44.29 44.28 45.44 10 43.81 42.77 42.59 44.14 43.41 43.23 12 42.50 42.50 43.53 43.10 43.10 44.13 17 40.71 40.94 40.94 43.98 44.08 44.08 21 42.51 42.67 42.25 40.48 40.61 40.26 24 40.55 40.54 40.54 39.91 39.91 39.91 25 42.40 42.83 42.73 43.63 43.95 43.54 27 40.78 40.31 40.12 46.28 45.85 45.75 31 42.61 42.61 42.54 42.47 42.47 42.40 32 43.79 43.79 43.80 43.63 43.63 43.67 33 42.64 42.64 41.74 43.90 43.90 42.96 36 41.02 29.58 29.58 47.46 39.30 39.30 23 47.19 47.19 47.14 49.27 49.27 49.18 15 59.15 58.43 56.36 61.90 61.19 58.91 20 58.40 58.47 58.40 58.15 58.34 58.71 34 59.11 60.29 60.52 62.85 63.87 64.10 09 76.42 76.49 76.49 76.77 76.85 76.85 16 66.44 66.44 66.44 68.68 68.68 68.68 18 79.48 79.24 79.57 78.71 78.47 78.73 28 60.40 60.91 62.09 63.33 63.82 65.12 29 65.18 65.40 64.63 70.09 70.29 69.70 30 81.87 81.89 81.89 82.08 82.10 82.10 35 60.70 60.61 61.59 61.16 60.98 61.47

Doesn’t look like Granger got much help to me. Joe Barton’s district also got a little bluer, while Blake Farenthold and Ruben Hinojosa’s got a touch redder. Quico Canseco’s CD23 got just a pinch redder – now only Linda Yanez achieved a majority there for the Dems; Susan Strawn fell short by a handful of votes – but it remains the case that every downballot Dem other than Jim Jordan got at least a plurality. CD23’s SSVR dropped a bit, from 53.65% to 53.40%, while CD20’s Charlie Gonzalez saw his go up from 50.8% to 53.64%. You can see all of the district data here, and of course Greg liveblogged the committee hearing, with salient analysis about how it all ties into the forthcoming litigation. On to the full House from here.

Voting right on climate change, part 3

Here we go again.

The late-stage whip count on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 has produced a particular political irony. A measure crafted by two Democrats in the House of Representatives — Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — over the course many years could hinge on the willingness of members of their own party to compromise.

At the heart of the issue is a belief among some progressives that the bill’s standard for carbon emission reductions have been set too low, and that the measure itself is too easy on both the coal industry and farmers. Already, according to Hill aides, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said that he will not support the bill regardless of whether his own amendments are approved. High-ranking officials involved with whipping votes tell the Huffington Post that there are at least three or four other liberals who are withholding their support. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-T.X.) were two names put forward by multiple sources, the latter issuing a floor statement on Friday saying that without significant improvements he couldn’t support the bill. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) whose vote remains up in the air, is said to be leaning towards backing the measure, according a Democratic source.

For a bill that could be decided by one or two votes, holdouts could make all the difference.

“The irony here is that this bill, which people like Waxman and others have been working on for years, could be derailed, not by the right wing,” said one high-ranking Democrat, “but by members of their own party. This could be the classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

I’m going to say the same thing to Congressman Doggett that I said to Congressmen Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez: The right thing to do is to vote for this bill. We can always make things better going forward, but if we don’t take this first step now, after all this time, who knows how long it will take just to get this far again? Please do the right thing and vote for this bill, Congressman Doggett.

UPDATE: According to Politico, Rep. Doggett is now a Yes vote. Good for him.

UPDATE: Here’s Rep. Doggett’s statement.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) spoke on the House floor today about the pending climate legislation.

“I struggled deeply about whether to support this flawed bill, but I finally determined that voting for it was my best hope for making it better,” Rep. Doggett said.

“Earlier today I voiced my strong objections to this bill. I voted against the rule to permit this debate because of its rejection of some amendments that I thought would have improved this legislation.

“For three reasons, I’m voting for final passage. First, I’ve been listening to the debate; not so much to those who support a bill that I’m not all that enthusiastic about, but listening to the flat earth society and the climate deniers, and some of the most inane arguments I have heard against refusing to act on this vital national security challenge.

“Second, I believe there is still some hope to make improvements once it gets out of the House – better to have a seat at the table to try to influence the change that is needed in this legislation.

“Third, I am convinced that unless we act today, the Senate will not act, and unless we act in this Congress, we will not get the international agreements we need to address this serious challenge. I’m voting yes in the hope that we will have a better bill and we will have the international accord that we so desperately need to deal with this critical matter.”

To view a video of his floor statement, please click here.

We’ll see what happens in the Senate.

Green and Gonzalez get plaudits for climate change bill

After all the haranging I did on this, the least I can do is to note this.

The Obama administration joined environmentalists Friday in heaping praise on Texas Democratic Reps. Charlie Gonzalez and Gene Green for helping climate change legislation win approval by a congressional committee.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the pair “courageous” for joining 30 other Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in voting for the roughly 1,000-page bill late Thursday.

With a relatively close vote of 33-25, the support from Green and Gonzalez was key — one reason panel Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., spent weeks negotiating with them on a plan to cushion refiners from the proposal’s financial cost.

Waxman’s agreement to give refiners 2 percent of an annual pool of valuable pollution permits helped seal the deal.

Both lawmakers represent congressional districts with major refining operations. Green’s territory includes refining plants along the Houston ship channel. The headquarters of refiners Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., are in San Antonio.

Gonzalez also secured changes designed to ensure a San Antonio power plant would eventually get some of the free permits — even though it won’t go online until late 2010.

Their support — despite the oil industry’s broad criticism of the climate change plan — could sway other oil-patch Democrats to back the bill when it is debated by the full House later this year.

Whatever the flaws of this bill, it’s vastly better than doing nothing, and it has enough support from environmentalist groups and progressive leaders to count it as a big win, with the hope for more improvement in the future. For that, I thank Reps. Green and Gonzalez for their work. May they inspire some of their “centrist” brothers and sisters in the Senate to get on board as well.

More on Gene Green and climate change

Here’s a followup story on the eventually successful negotiations among members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the cap-and-trade bill.

Climate change legislation moving through Congress would give refiners free permits to emit greenhouse gases under a compromise engineered by a Texas Democrat whose Houston district includes many petrochemical plants.

Rep. Gene Green led the push for refiners along with Democratic Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, who represents San Antonio — home to the corporate headquarters of refiners Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp.

The two lawmakers got the deal added to a climate change bill agreed to by most Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and backed by the measure’s two sponsors, Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Green and Gonzalez also scored a major concession sought by oil companies when committee leaders scrapped a proposal that would impose steadily stiffer limits on transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions — and make the industry pay for allowances to cover the excess pollutants released when their fuel is burned.

Half a loaf is better than none. Half a loaf is better than none. Half a loaf…you get the idea. I think if I say it a few dozen more times, I’ll be able to say it with conviction.

The Waxman-Markey bill, which the Energy and Commerce Committee is slated to consider next week, would cap carbon dioxide emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other operations could exceed the limits by buying and exchanging emissions allowances on a new carbon-trading market.

To defray costs for some polluting industries, Waxman and Markey agreed to give away more than half of those allowances in the early years of the so-called “cap-and-trade” plan, with the bulk of them — 35 percent — going to local electricity distributors.

An additional 15 percent would be donated to trade-sensitive industries, and 3 percent would be given to automakers.

Eventually, companies would be weaned off the free allowances and would then have to buy the permits from the federal government at auction.

Under the deal with Green and Gonzalez, refiners would get 2 percent of the free allowances starting in 2014 and ending in 2026.

On Friday, that agreement was being attacked by both oil industry leaders, who said it wouldn’t offer enough economic protection, and environmentalists, who complained it was an unnecessary giveaway.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said the 2 percent free allowances is “inequitable” because it falls short of the roughly 4.3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions estimated to come from refiners.

The result, he said, will be “greater costs on consumers and producers of oil and gas.”

Yeah, dire warnings by a to-be-regulated industry about passing the cost along to the consumer is pretty much the last refuge of the scoundrel. The consumer is already bearing the costs of the pollution, in the form of adverse health effects and the eventual catastrophe that global warming will bring if it’s not checked now. It’s just that those costs are indirect, and they provide no incentive to ameliorate the underlying causes of those costs, which if dealt with would serve to lower them. So with all due respect to Mr. Gerard, I consider his words on this to have as much credibility as a Wall Street financier’s words arguing against tighter regulation of that industry on the grounds that it could damage the economy. A statement from the organizers of Friday’s rally about that event is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Voting right on climate change, take two

Yo, Democrats. You were given a mandate this past November. Please act like it.

Democratic leaders pushing to cap greenhouse gas emissions were working Wednesday to appease key lawmakers who want to ease the financial burden that the climate change plan would impose on consumers and refiners.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who plans to formally introduce his climate change bill today, said that he expects a new compromise deal will have enough votes on his 59-member House Energy and Commerce Committee to be approved by the panel next week.

But Waxman spent much of Wednesday huddling with wavering Democratic lawmakers on the panel to shore up support for the measure. The skeptics included Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez, who want concessions for refiners in the Lone Star State, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who wants tax relief for low-income households to defray expected higher energy costs.

The cornerstone of the bill is a plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions blamed for contributing to global warming.

Under the compromise, greenhouse gas emissions would be capped at 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 — a looser standard than the 20 percent reduction Waxman had originally sought. That proposed cap is more rigorous than the 14 percent goal President Barack Obama has sought or the 6 percent target advocated by some committee Democrats.

To exceed the limits, power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other industries would have to buy emissions allowances on a new carbon market. But after weeks of negotiations, committee Democrats have agreed to give away 35 percent of the allowances to electric utilities, 15 percent to trade-sensitive industries such as timber and steel manufacturing and a small number to the auto industry.

Still undecided was the question of how many allowances should be given to refiners, with the final number likely to rest between 1 percent and 5 percent.

Green, the unofficial leader of a group of oil-patch Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was pushing the higher number.

He said he wanted to vote for a bill that limits CO2 emissions, “but does it in a way that is reasonable.”

“There’s some flexibility” in the allowance allocation, Green said, “but 1 percent is not in the ballpark.”

After meeting with Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Gonzalez said he was “feeling really good” that he would get enough concessions for refiners and would vote for the legislation.

As Yglesias notes, even with all the concessions, this is still a decent bill. Could be a better one, but it could have been a much worse one, too. It’s still a big step forward. Yet it’s frustrating to realize how much has been given away, in a way that will place a larger share of the cost of these necessary changes on those who can least afford it.

We’ve discussed this before. Rep. Green is a fine Congressman, who has groomed a large number of very capable proteges. He’s also an electoral juggernaut, and you don’t get to be that way without being responsive to your constituents. So if you live in CD29 and you want Rep. Green to do the right thing, it’s up to you to tell him so. A diverse group of activists will be gathering in his district today at noon to urge him to support climate change legislation. Click on to read about this and participate if you can.

UPDATE: Looks like we have a deal.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., signed off on the compromise with Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez. The cornerstone of their deal was a commitment to donate at least 2 percent of valuable carbon dioxide emissions permits to refiners.

The compromise on refiners — tentatively agreed to late Thursday but still subject to last-minute negotiations — could help Waxman and Markey steer their contentious climate change measure through the 59-member Energy and Commerce Committee next week.

The measure also is buoyed by a new agreement among many committee Democrats on core parts of the bill, including a plan to freely give away more than 50 percent of those emission allowances to electric power distributors, trade-sensitive industries and automakers.

“We are now one huge step toward creating a 100-year solution to the carbon problem … that will protect consumers,” Markey said.

[…]

Green of Houston and Gonzalez of San Antonio said that with the changes aimed at helping refiners and other modifications, they expected to vote for the legislation next week.

The pair, whose districts are home to the plants and headquarters of major U.S. refiners, had been pushing for 5 percent of emission allowances to be given to the industry.

Under the deal Green and Gonzalez reached with Waxman and Markey, the free allowances for refiners could begin phasing out as early as 2014; refiners would eventually have to purchase all of the allowances they need from the federal government in an auction.

By contrast, the free allowances for electric utilities would phase out over five years beginning in 2025.

Green said the deal also would delay the implementation of a proposed low-carbon fuel standard until at least 2023 — a change from Waxman and Markey’s initial plan to phase in the standard as early as 2014.

The low-carbon standard, designed to promote advanced biofuels made from plant materials, would require escalating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels.

I’ll need to see what the reviews are of this, but it sounds like a positive step. Getting this passed in the first place is the big thing; it can always be tweaked later. Kudos to all for working through this.

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Voting right on climate change

It is, of course, a good thing that President Obama has Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress as he tries to get his agenda implemented. That doesn’t mean he’ll have smooth sailing, of course – between the weirdly ahistorical insistence on a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to pass anything and the outsized influence of the so-called “moderates”, the upper chamber has been his biggest obstacle so far. But the House can be a challenge as well, as we see in this piece on Rep. Gene Green and the fight over climate change legislation.

A 17-year veteran of Washington politics known for his low-key style and behind-the-scenes approach to legislation, Rep. Gene Green has seen his popularity skyrocket in recent days — at least with lawmakers eager to write new climate change rules.

The celebrity status comes courtesy of Green’s role as one of a handful of moderate Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. His support is crucial to advancing a sweeping energy and climate change bill.

Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., are courting the Houston Democrat and other wary lawmakers to build backing for their legislation that would cap carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming. Under their bill, power plants, manufacturers and other industrial operations could stay within the new limits by buying and trading emissions allowances, or permits, to spew the pollutant.

The good news for Waxman, Markey and other proponents of the so-called cap-and-trade plan is that Green believes “the United States has to lead” in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The bad news? Green worries about the potential price tag for oil refiners along the Houston Ship Channel he represents.

“I’d like to vote for a bill,” Green said. “But I’m not going to vote for one unless I think it’s going to be good for the area I represent.”

His eastern Harris County district is home to five refineries and “more chemical plants than I can count.”

Green has told congressional leaders and President Barack Obama that some carbon dioxide emission allowances will have to be given for free to refiners in order to win his support .

Green isn’t the only member of the Texas delegation to present a roadblock. San Antonio’s Rep. Charlie Gonzalez has voiced similar concerns, and gotten some heavy pushback in his district for it. VoteVets.org is now running a TV ad in San Antonio urging Rep. Gonzalez to support forward-thinking legislation on climate change. A different ad with the same kind of message is running in Houston – I saw it on KTRK the other night – asking people to call on Rep. Green. Public Citizen, which is among those leading the charge on this, responds to Rep. Green’s concerns. I can appreciate his position, but it’s important to remember that the cost of doing nothing will be far more substantial than any cap-and-trade implementation. Taking action now, however painful it may appear to be, will be cheaper and easier than putting it off and having to take more drastic action later.