Environmental groups are scrambling to convince Democratic lawmakers that a vote on cap-and-trade this year would not harm them politically. Attempting to suppress Democrats' doubts about pushing for another controversial vote now that the health care debate has proved long and bloody, groups that support cap-and-trade say they have spent the summer building the kind of grassroots support that health care reform did not have. Climate legislation advocates say they are deploying a "climate war room" -- funded by 60 labor, business, faith, agricultural and environmental groups -- to coordinate operations in 20 states.
The White House privately says it is reluctant to push lawmakers toward another contentious vote this year, but cap-and-trade advocates know that a winter of opposition ads could doom their efforts. Their focus has turned to polls, with which they hope to persuade hesitant, battle-weary Democrats. They are pointing to data that show most Americans support changes to U.S. energy policy currently in the works in Congress, and that Democrats in contested districts are not facing any backlash for supporting cap-and-trade legislation earlier this year.
"When you get your butt kicked, like we did [after the House energy vote], it focuses the mind," said Steve Cochran, director of the Environmental Defense Fund's National Climate Campaign. "We found out that this is not something to hide from but something to lean on -- even in places where coal is king and Blue Dogs were perceived to be running for cover."
Green Groups Open 'Climate War Room'