Warren adopts some of Inslee’s climate policies

First up, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced yesterday that she is adopting part of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s climate plan in her own climate plan. Now, longtime listeners will recognize this as one of my pet ideas—the concept that if somebody else has a terrific policy, you could just say, yep, I’ll do that one, and not go to all the trouble of writing up your own. Warren has done that, IN PART.

In a post on Medium titled “My Plan for 100% Clean Energy,” Warren wrote:

“As a presidential candidate, my friend Governor Jay Inslee challenged all Americans to confront the urgency of the climate crisis bearing down upon us. And Jay didn’t merely sound the alarm or make vague promises. He provided bold, thoughtful, and detailed ideas for how to get us where we need to go, both by raising standards to address pollution and investing in the future of the American economy. While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda.
One of the most important of these ideas is the urgent need to decarbonize key sectors of our economy. Today, I’m embracing that goal by committing to adopt and build on Governor Inslee’s ten-year action plan to achieve 100% clean energy for America by decarbonizing our electricity, our vehicles, and our buildings. And I’m challenging every other candidate for President to do the same.”

Warren then goes on to make the point that she already has multiple plans that are part of her overall vision for tackling climate change. For instance, there’s her Green Apollo plan which would invest in research and development for clean energy technology. And then you’ve got the Green Manufacturing plan, which suggests, in part, that government entities should buy American-made green technology for its own use. And then of course, various other plans she’s proposed, like the plan for public lands and Green Marshall Plan, themselves include yet more pieces of this overall climate puzzle.

The inclusion of this key part of the Inslee plan is notable in part because it would have a visible effect on day-to-day life for Americans. It really is a big change. For instance, this is the part of Inslee’s plan that would essentially outlaw new gas stoves and ranges. So, you know, if you love cooking with gas, good luck with that if you’re building a new house after 2030. The same is true for gas-powered cars—those are no longer made by 2030. Inslee’s plan is extremely aggressive in pushing toward electric utilities, and appliances, and so forth. This is based on the premise that electricitycan be made in many ways, but fossil fuels generally have to be extracted and burned. Inslee’s plan would also shut down all coal-burning power plants.

There’s a lot more in Warren’s latest article, and it attempts to stitch together all the pieces of her various proposals. So, the inevitable question I ask is, what would this cost and how would the candidate pay for it? Well, adding the Inslee stuff—and this is justpartof the Inslee plan, not the whole deal, would cost $1 trillion dollars over 10 years. Warren proposes to pay for that by, “reversing Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and giant corporations.” The rest of the funding for her climate plan is laid out in each of her other proposals.

Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, and Klobuchar release their climate plans

Okay, look, we have a minor issue today, which is that a total of five major candidates just introduced their FIRST climate plans—Warren added on to her existing stuff. Now, the show today would go on for quite a while if we kept going with a full story on every plan. Clearly this is happening because of the CNN event tonight—you can’t head into that event without being able to point at an existing plan, even if you just announced it today.

So here’s the simplest breakdown I can figure out. Let’s go in alphabetical order. And by the way, I’m gonna have a very similar problem tomorrow trying to summarize seven hours of television, so you’ll have to bear with me there too. Okay.

Senator Cory Booker released his climate plan, titled “Cory’s Plan to Address the Threat of Climate Change.” It would cost $3 trillion dollars over ten years. Like many other plans, he’d aim for total de-carbonization of energy production by 2030, and a fully carbon-neutral US economy by 2045. His plan is notable in part because it focuses heavily on communities of color and low-income communities.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg released his climate plan, titled “Mobilizing America: Rising to the Climate Challenge.” It would cost between $1.5 and $2 trillion dollars over ten years, and resembles the Warren plan in many ways. It’s also, frankly, the most detailed plan, aside from Warren’s, that I saw released today, including a lengthy white paper laying out the details. His plan is notable in part for a reliance on carbon capture, which is a complex thing to accomplish. We would need real research and development to create that tech—but he also intends to fund that as part of the plan. And like Warren, many of his other plans also ALREADY have climate portions, so it all kinda ties together.

Julián Castro released his climate plan, titled, “People and Planet First.” It would cost $10 trillion dollars. The big focus there is on a carbon tax, as well as planting trees around the world in an attempt at mass reforestation, plus the standard stuff about zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, and so on. His plan is also focused on communities of color and low-income communities.

Senator Kamala Harris released her climate plan, titled, “A Climate Plan for the People.” It would cost $10 trillion dollars over ten years, and again echoes some of the themes we’ve just talked about—focusing on communities of color and low-income communities who are often most affected by climate change. She would emphasize clean drinking water, add federal regulations around fossil fuel companies, and move to zero-emission vehicles, though her dates are slightly different than others, with a focus on new heavyvehicles being zero-emission by 2030, then ALL vehicles by 2035.

And last up, Senator Amy Klobuchar released her climate plan, titled “Senator Klobuchar’s Plan to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” That one would cost $1 trillion dollars over ten years, and relies on a carbon tax, plus raising corporate taxes. That plan closely resembles the Obama climate plan, which emphasized efficiency standards for cars and broad limits on emissions from power plants. Yes, there’s more, but we’re trying to zip through these. There are many, many links in the show notes.

What’s going on inside the Federal Election Commission

Next up, some news that started more than a week ago, but I haven’t managed to cover until now. There is a big problem at the Federal Election Commission, or FEC. So first up, we need to talk about what the FEC specifically does. It’s an independent agency that handles campaign finance issues for federal elections. It does things like audit campaigns, handles the financial reporting for quarterly results, and make sure campaigns are complying with federal regulations around elections and MONEY.

The FEC has six commissioners, all of whom are appointed by the president, and all of whom serve for six-year terms. The law that established the FEC in the 1970s made it so that a maximum of three commissioners can be from the same political party. Oh yeah, and one more detail, you need at least four commissioners to be present at a given meeting in order to have a quorum—that’s a term meaning you have enough people to hold a meeting or make any new decisions.

Okay, so what’s the big news? Well, that six-member commission currently has three members. FEC vice-chair Matt Petersen resigned on August 26th, and there were already two vacant seats, so now the FEC is down to just three members. That means it cannot meet, so it cannot do major parts of its actual job. For instance, without a quorum, it can’t start a new audit. It can’t make a new rule. It can’t issue a fine for somebody who violates the existing rules. And, you know, there’s kind of a big election coming up. Oh, and one more weird twist is that the three remaining members have all been there longer than six years, but they’re allowed to stick around even if their terms have expired, as long as nobody else has been appointed and confirmed to replace them.

So the obvious solution here would be for the president to simply nominate three more people. And that’s currently something a lot of people are asking the president to do. The Senate would need to confirm these people, or at least, say, ONE of them, in order to restore the FEC to its minimally functional state. Well, guess what, the president HAS nominated somebody, but the Senate has not confirmed him. Reading from a New York Times story by Shane Goldmacher:

“Mr. Trump did nominate James E. Trainor III, a Republican lawyer in Texas, to serve on the commission in late 2017, but Mr. Trainor has not been confirmed by the Senate. There has been a long tradition of presidents nominating and the Senate confirming Democratic and Republican commissioners simultaneously.

With the resignation of Mr. Petersen, a Republican, the White House could call for Mr. Trainor to be confirmed without a Democratic counterpart. The commission cannot have more than three members of either political party, a balanced arrangement that has often led to gridlock.”

Right now, the remaining three include one Democrat, one Republican, and one Independent. There has been some off-the-record discussion that the president might appoint an entirely new slate of SIX people to replace the whole group. Personally, I’m good with one, or two, or six—really any number that allows a quorum. Oh and by the way, the FEC can still report campaign income numbers even without a quorum.

Yet another Republican House member announces his retirement

This morning, Representative Bill Flores announced he will not run again in 2020. That makes him the fifth Republican Congressman from Texas to retire this year. That’s kind of a lot, although these folks appear to be resigning for a mixture of reasons.

Reading from a Politico story by Melanie Zanona:

“Flores, who rode the 2010 tea party wave to Congress, is a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and currently serves on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“When I originally announced that I was running for Congress in 2009, I was firm in my commitment that I would run for six or fewer terms,” Flores, 65, announced in a statement on Wednesday. “After much prayer over the past few days and following conversations with my wife, Gina, during that time, I have decided that my current term will be my last.”
His solidly Republican district includes Waco and the northern Austin suburbs and is home to two major universities: Texas A&M University and Baylor University. While Flores beat his Democratic opponent by 15 points last year, changing demographics in the state — and especially in the suburbs — have made a number of races in Texas more competitive.”

So, watch this space. I suspect Flores will not be the last of the Republicans from Texas who opt not to run again.

Having said that, I really doubt that his district is actually going to flip—so just because people retire doesn’t mean it’s because they’re about to lose reelection. In this case, it sure does seem like a guy making a simple decision about what to do during the rest of his career.

The DNC announces a few details for the October debate

And last up today, the DNC has announced the first information we’ve yet heard about the October debate. And they actually released it on Saturday. So, yeah, I was asleep at the wheel all weekend in vacation mode AND I missed this yesterday, so you’re not getting this hot news until today. Sorry about that one. On the bright side, the details are still pretty sketchy, but here’s what we know.

First up, this info came in the form of a memo to campaigns, which Politico reporter Zach Montellaro got his hands on. According to the memo, the debate will be held on October 15th and maybe 16th, which are a Tuesday and Wednesday. And, just like the September debate, that second night will only happen if more than 10 candidates qualify.

Quick note there: I doexpect additional candidates to qualify beyond the field we’ll see next week. But, there’s a slim possibility that one or more already-qualified candidates could drop out. I doubt it, but, you know, it’s possible. So either we’ll see the same ten-candidate setup, or we MIGHT end up with a two-night split and a new dynamic we’ve not yet seen in this primary: A debate with fewer than ten people on-stage at once.

Okay, so what else do we know? Well, the event will be held in Ohio. Where in Ohio? No one knows. Just Ohio in general. So, cross your fingers, Ohioans, and hope that it’s someplace close and you can grab a ticket. It’s also unclear which media partner will air the debates on TV, but I suppose we’ll find that out at some point soon.

The most important thing we learned was the timing for polls to qualify for that debate. As we’ve discussed on this show, candidates have until two weeks prior to the debate itself to pick up four polls in which they reach 2% or greater support. They also need to reach the donor threshold, but that has not been a problem for most candidates who have any qualifying polls.

Right now, Steyer has three, Gabbard has two, and Williamson has one. They will have until precisely 11:59pm Eastern time on October 1st to pick up more polling results. That’s actually not too bad—that gives them a full month between the late-August deadline for polls for the September debate and this new deadline for the October debate. Now, we don’t have any new qualifying polls yet, but you better believe those will make news when we do.