Orange County Register: How cap-and-trade tripped Democrats |

Strong-arm tactics a year ago roused Americans, and Team Obama has been playing defense ever since

How cap-and-trade tripped Democrats
OC Register

How did we get here? A year ago at this time, President Barack Obama enjoyed approval ratings in the 60 percent range. Democrats in Washington had laid out an aggressive agenda that included passing both climate change and health care reform by the August recess. Political experts were writing that Republicans were still in search of a way out of the "political doghouse."

Everything changed on June 26, 2009.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman's 1,500-page "cap and trade" national energy tax bill had no business coming up for a vote that day. A full-blown fleecing of the middle class, it would raise electricity prices, increase gasoline prices, and ship American jobs to countries like China and India. It had no business, either, being 1,500 pages; at 3 a.m. the day of the vote, Democrats dropped a 300-page amendment chock full of backroom deals and special-interest loopholes.

During debate on the floor, I spent more than an hour reading aloud portions of this amendment that no one had seen, let alone read, explaining how this assault on freedom would impose a tax on anyone who drove a car, bought an American-made product, or flipped on a light switch. As my reading went on, ordinary citizens began to flood congressional offices with calls, faxes, e-mails, and tweets, protesting a bad bill and a rushed vote. After the "trillion-dollar" stimulus and all the bailouts, enough was enough.

So Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Waxman went into panic mode and tried to shut me down. They didn't want the American people to see just how ruthless, reckless, and arrogant they had become. Too late.

Within hours, details of all the sweetheart deals came out. Skittish Democrats who walked the plank on their leaders' behalf were quickly swallowed up by the swells of public outrage. "Read the bill" became a national rallying cry. Obamanomics – more taxing, more spending, and more borrowing – was toxic. The seeds of the town-hall tempest of last August were planted.

By mid-July, the headlines were changing: Democrats were suddenly "struggling," "splintering," and "dysfunctional." President Obama held a prime-time news conference to try to salvage his August deadline for passing health care; he hasn't held one since. The dog days took what was left of Democrats' momentum.

While the national energy-tax bill never made it to the Senate floor, Washington Democrats haven't stopped trying to find a way to force it down the throats of the American people. In yet another example of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's "never let a crisis go to waste" philosophy, Democrats and their liberal special interest allies are plotting to exploit the Gulf oil spill to pass this monstrosity when they should be focused on stopping the leak. Still haunted by the fallout from last year's vote, Democrats plan to wait until after November's election to move the bill – hoping to avoid having to answer to people who pay their salary.

We have critical choices to make about our energy future -- and Republicans have proposed a responsible, 'all-of-the-above' plan that that would get us where we need to go – but the Democrats' job-killer was left for dead for a reason, and it should stay that way.

I said on that day one year ago that this would be the defining vote of the 111th Congress, and I still believe that. A fundamental founding principle – that we work for the taxpayer, not the other way around – was recklessly abandoned that day, and Americans ever since have been fighting tooth and nail to reclaim it.