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Political Notebook

Energy measure would cut deficit by $19b, report says

July 8, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senator John F. Kerry’s signature energy and climate change legislation would cut the deficit by $19 billion, according to an estimate released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The legislation faces strong opposition from Republicans and some Democrats from energy-producing states, but the report gives the Massachusetts Democrat and his allies a compelling financial argument amid concerns about the implications of a burgeoning deficit.

“There is no more room for excuses — this must be our year to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation and begin to send a price signal on carbon,’’ Kerry said in a statement with the legislation’s coauthor, Senator Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut. “Many of our colleagues have said they flatly oppose anything that adds a penny to the deficit, so we hope they look anew at this initiative, which reduces it.’’

The report estimates that the deficit would be reduced by $19 billion over the first 10 years and that the legislation would not increase the deficit over the next 40 years.

The cost of the legislation, which includes various tax credits, would be more than offset by revenues collected through a cap-and-trade system, according to the report. The bill would put a price on carbon emissions, a measurement that opponents have attacked as a carbon tax.

The report estimates that an allowance to emit more carbon than permitted would cost about $14 per metric ton in 2012 and would rise to $25 in 2020.

MATT VISER

Obama ally ‘troubled’ by recess appointment
WASHINGTON — Key Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee were divided in their reaction to President Obama’s recess appointment yesterday of Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor and leading specialist on health care policy, to lead the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

For the Obama administration, the maneuver around the legislative branch’s usual confirmation process was driven by political necessity: The White House saw storm clouds on the horizon for Berwick, as Republicans prepared to hammer him in hearings over his support of the British health care system.

Despite that tactical consideration, an objection came from the chairman of the finance committee, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, an Obama ally who would have led Berwick’s confirmation hearings.

“I’m troubled that, rather than going through the standard nomination process, Dr. Berwick was recess appointed,’’ Baucus said. “Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered.’’

Baucus qualified his complaint: “Despite the recess appointment, I look forward to working with [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services]as they implement health reform.’’

John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, strongly defended the White House circumvention of the legislative branch in this instance.

“Republican lockstep stalling of Don’s nomination was a case study in cynicism and one awful example of how not to govern. Republicans screamed that these federal programs were in trouble, then tried to deny the administration the capable guy the president had chosen to oversee them,’’ Kerry said.

Obama, in a brief statement announcing his recess appointments, blamed Republicans for forcing his hand.

“It’s unfortunate that at a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges, many in Congress have decided to delay critical nominations for political purposes,’’ Obama said.

Also appointed were Philip E. Coyle III as associate director for national security and international affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Joshua Gotbaum as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

The recess appointment lasts until the end of the session of Congress, in late 2011. So in 18 months or so, the debate over Berwick can begin again.

CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND

W.Va. governor may run for Byrd’s Senate seat
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said yesterday that he will consider running for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Democrat Robert C. Byrd if it’s on the November ballot.

He is asking Attorney General Darrell McGraw, a Democrat, whether the election can be held this year instead of 2012, when Byrd would have been up for reelection.

Manchin said he will not appoint himself to the seat, but when asked whether he would run for it, he replied: “I would highly consider that. I do understand what’s at stake here.’’

Conflicting state laws and a 1994 state court ruling led the state’s chief elections officer to conclude that whoever Manchin appointed would not have to face voters until 2012.

But that official, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, has since become part of a growing chorus calling for Manchin and state lawmakers to put the seat on this year’s ballot.

ASSOCIATED PRESS