You can’t fool us anymore

Sarah Field Contributor
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On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs left open the possibility that Democrats would try to pass cap and trade during a Lame Duck session of Congress after the November elections.  Even though polling data, citizen protests, town halls, and – most likely – this fall’s election results will show uniform rejection of another federal takeover of our economy, the Democrats refuse to back away from their jobs-killing, anti-growth agenda.

Continuing in their practice of using smoke-and-mirrors to pass legislation, the Democrats are planning to use legislative trickery to pass cap and trade.

Let me set the scene for you.

The House passed a draconian cap and trade bill in June 2009 by a vote of 219-212.  Presently, however, Senate Democrats know that they will have difficulty getting 60 votes for a similar bill just a few months before an election.  So, Senate Democrats want a pared-down energy bill that might be politically-palatable enough to garner these 60 votes.  Then, when the two bills go to conference committee, the egregious carbon capping provisions will be added to the final bill behind closed doors where accountability goes to die.  A Lame Duck Congress will vote on, and pass, said conference report which, incidentally, cannot even be amended by either the House or the Senate.  All of this will allow President Obama to sign a cap and trade bill into law before the new Congress is sworn into office.

I, for one, can’t say that this resembles anything close to the open and transparent process that then-candidate Obama promised but, after the use of reconciliation to pass Obamacare, what can we expect?

Senate Democrats actually confirmed my suspicions on Tuesday night with the introduction of an energy bill that “focuses on oil spills, clean alternatives” (CNN’s words, not mine).   Senator Reid was quick to point out this was a “compromise” bill since it dropped the most controversial measures from the June 2009 House bill, including caps on carbon emissions.  And it is precisely this “compromise” that he hopes will attract 60 votes, so that cap and trade can be added back in during the conference process, and passed by a Lame Duck Congress.

In other words, this seemingly innocuous energy bill could actually be the Trojan horse through which cap and trade becomes law.

Although the Democrats keep trying to use legislative maneuvering and trickery to sell the American people on their agenda, I have faith.  I have faith that Americans see, understand, and ultimately reject these thinly-veiled attempts to take away our liberty.   As such, the biggest hurdle for the Obama-Reid-Pelosi team is that, after the games with health care and the budget (and beyond), a large percentage of these citizens have actually become de facto experts in Congressional procedure and the Constitution’s limits.

Procedural arguments about the validity of “deeming” a budget passed, or using reconciliation to push through health care, are now part of the mainstream conversation.  For instance, family meals with my 89-year old grandmother centered on highly-specific House and Senate rules, Facebook friends from across the country bemoaned the ways in which procedure manipulated the legislative agenda, and sales clerks peppered me with their incredulity: “how could Congress try to ‘trick us’ to such an undesirable outcome?”

Was my experience unique?  I really don’t think so.  A quick scan of the blogosphere, including comments on my organization’s site, LibertyCentral.org, supports the conclusion that back-room deals and sneaky legislative maneuvers can no longer fool the American people.

My optimism stems from the fact that the energetic, informed voters are going to raise the cost of voting for this seemingly-innocuous energy bill.  They’re not going to let Senator Reid fool those “swing” Senators – and we all know who they are – into voting for something that’s actually going to give a Lame Duck Congress the tools it needs to pass cap and trade.

In our great information age, it turns out that you don’t need to live in the Beltway to understand Congressional procedure.  You just can’t fool us anymore.

Sarah Field is the Director of Policy and General Counsel of Liberty Central, Inc., a non-profit organization whose primary objective is to harness the power of citizen voices, inform everyday Americans with knowledge, and activate them to preserve liberty.