Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's admission last week that he cannot find enough votes to enact the newest incarnation of "cap and trade" was welcome news - but not entirely candid.
Reid told reporters an energy bill in the House will be limited to provisions regarding energy efficiency and offshore oil and gas drilling, in response to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. New limits on coal-fired power plants will not be included in the bill.
Here is how Reid explained it to reporters:
"It's easy to count to 60 ... My point is this: We know where we are. We don't have the votes."
Reid's comment about not being able to convince 60 senators to vote in favor of cap and trade was a clear attempt to make it sound as if Republicans are blocking the measure. It takes 60 senators to cut off debate on a bill and move to a vote on it. There are 41 Republicans in the Senate - able, if they vote together, to block bills supported by the 57 Democrats and two Independents.
But cap and trade is not a mere partisan dispute. While most Republicans oppose it, a substantial number of Democrats do, too.
Despite what Reid, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want Americans to believe, cap and trade is not just a Democrats vs. Republicans controversy. Thoughtful Democrats worry about the economic devastation it would wreak in states such as West Virginia and Ohio. Those from states without their own coal industries worry about the reaction of voters to much higher electric bills; slightly less than 50 percent of the nation's power is generated in coal-fired plants.
The death - at least for now - of cap and trade means Obama's administration will move forward with plans to cripple the coal industry through Environmental Protection Agency mandates.
That makes it vital for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., to advance a bill he has sponsored to restrict the EPA's power for a two-year period. We urge Rockefeller to make the bill a priority - and to enlist reasonable senators on both sides of the political aisle to support the measure.
Reid, Pelosi and Obama will not be happy about their defeat in the Senate. They will push the EPA to accelerate its anti-coal campaign. Only a bill such as Rockefeller's can stop it.