I couldn't help wonder what kind of stories the Chamber hoped to generate with the statement it issued earlier today. So I leaned back, closed my eyes, and used my imagination:
US Chamber Emerges as Unlikely Hero for Climate Protection; Calls for Global Powers for Congress
In a surprising departure from its century long-fight for free enterprise, the US Chamber of Commerce has laid out an ambitious set of legislative principles on climate change, including one controversial position that could require amending the Constitution to permit global expansion of Congress' lawmaking powers.
The principles were described in a statement issued as the venerable business federation rushed to defend its position on climate from its own self-inflicted wounds (also see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)
The boldest of the principles stated that "any climate change response must include all major CO2 emitting economies." That appears to set a high bar for Congress to meet, at least within the Constitution's current limitation of Congress' power to domestic lawmaking. While while the Chamber expressed its support for "strong legislation," it also made clear it wouldn't settle for anything less than a law that governs emissions globally. "We opposed the Waxman-Markey bill because it is neither comprehensive nor international," the Chamber said.
"The Chamber is clearly saying that it will only support legislation if Congress regulates global warming pollution from all countries with significant emissions. So on top of passing a climate bill, Congress would need to amend the Constitution," said one constitutional scholar. "I think that creates a bit of a hurdle while they are tied up with health care."
Under the US Constitution, the Executive Branch, not Congress, is granted authority to make treaties. Changing that would require a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority in the House and in the Senate, and then ratification by the states.
"Look, right now we don't even have language on this," said a harried senior aide. "I don't know if they think we can do this as a floor amendment, or in conference or what."
The Chamber's proposals also rebutted complaints about the Chamber's position on climate, including former Chamber-member PG&E's criticism that the Chamber uses "extreme rhetoric and obstructionist tactics." Clearly stung by such comments, the Chamber stated that "Some in the environmental movement claim that, because of our opposition to a specific bill or approach, we must be opposed to all efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, or that we deny the existence of any problem. They are dead wrong."
"I'm really ashamed," said one ashen-faced environmentalist as she wiped away a tear. "The Chamber has been so misunderstood. Who would have realized that they had the most ambitious goals of all?"
However, some questioned the Chamber's proposals on practical grounds, questioning whether even transferring treaty-making power to the Congress would be enough, since any new rules would need to be enforced.
"That's gonna be pretty tough," said a veteran of the EPA's compliance division. "We're already backlogged enough just regulating pollution in the U.S. But doing it overseas, who needs the pressure?"
On reflection, one bright spot did occur to the official. "There'd be a hell of a lot of overtime, come to think of it."
The Chamber's statement also made clear that clean energy and climate legislation should "promote new technologies", "emphasize efficiency" and "ensure affordable energy for families and businesses." However, those are not seen as controversial, as measures to address those concerns were included in the House bill and are widely expected to be part of any legislative package moving forward.
"We know from the CBO, EIA, and the EPA analyses that we can craft a policy that drives energy efficiency, brings clean new energy technologies online and costs about a postage-stamp per day," said a senior committee staffer.
"But expanding Congress' power internationally? Even if they do amend the constitution, they'll have to come up with a whole new committee to oversee that. Can you imagine how much manuevering there'll be for a seat, let alone the Chair? We won't get anything else done."