Waxman-Markey Passes House 219-212

I am an economist, not a political analyst. I am not a political partisan, but I do oppose cap-and-trade. Now that my biases — and limitations — are out in the open, here is my take on the down-and-dirty politics of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade House vote.

It was close. That usually bodes poorly for Senate passage. But something in my gut tells me it will make it through. A filibuster is possible since there are still only 59 Democrats.

But filibusters are used sparingly. That probably means this bill will not face one.

Here’s why. There will be a trillion-dollar health care bill this summer. And the vote on Sonia Sotomayor. Republicans will probably only want to use one filibuster.

Sotomayor would not shift the ideological balance of the court, which means Republicans will probably be fine with letting her through. They will put up enough of a fight to appease their base voters. But I don’t see a filibuster.

That leaves either cap-and-trade or health care. With the economy in trouble, environmental issues have taken a back seat in the public mind. Pocketbook issues always trump “luxury issues” like global warming in times like these.

Republicans therefore have more to gain from filibustering health care than Waxman-Markey. I personally think cap-and-trade will do more to hurt the economy than the forthcoming health care bill. But the median voter doesn’t.

And politicians make their calculations on their electoral prospects, not on economic growth. They will cater to the median voter.

That means the GOP will save its filibuster for health care. Waxman-Markey will pass the Senate unless there are significant Democratic defections, or something sinks the health care bill before Waxman-Markey hits the Senate.

That’s my prediction. Now let’s see what happens. Happy to hear what you think.

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