Obama's Missed Opportunity

Yesterday the senate voted on a cloture motion for HR.6049 again, the "Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008." Once again the motion failed, and the bill is stalled over the stalemate of funding.

Briefly, although most of the tax credits have bi-partisan support, the language of the bill follows the Democratic Pay-As-You-Go rules (PAYGO), and contains a provision to pay for the tax credits essentially by taxing the income of hedge fund managers as earned income, not investment income (ie capital gains). The Republicans don't support closing that tax loophole and are pushing for a waiver of the PAYGO rules.

So why was this a missed opportunity for Obama? The cloture vote was almost party line, with 4 Republicans joining the Democrats and no Democrats joining the Republicans. Senators Kennedy, Stevens, Obama, and McCain did not vote. If Sen. Obama had made a point to go to the senate and vote for cloture the motion still would have failed, but he would have raised the profile of the issue and would have earned a weapon with which to attack McCain.

While McCain is going around and lying about the impact of expanding offshore drilling, or his meager support for renewables, Obama and his allies could have said over and over again "While Sen. Obama supports and voted for renewable energy, Sen. McCain didn't even bother to show up for the vote." It's politics.

Exactly the same goes for S.3335, which is a senate version sponsored by Sen. Baucus that would expand the PTC for wind by one year and the ITC for solar by 8 years (more info about S.3335 here.) Obama and McCain both skipped this cloture vote as well.

Obama has a strong plan laid out for tackling this nations energy future. But he doesn't need to wait until he's in the White House to lead on the issue. Frankly, a little leadership on it now would almost certainly help him get there.