Authors: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
Crossposted from Grist
The Senate is delaying on climate and energy again. How can so much inaction feel so exhausting?
The most frustrating part is the feeling that our political system is hurting us more than it is helping. We have solutions. We have some really smart ideas about how to wean ourselves off dirty energy and create millions of jobs doing so. And we know what investment in clean energy can do for our communities. But the U.S. Senate appears to be taking directions from political convention and special interests rather than from the American people.
Although Capitol Hill may be deadlocked, unemployment isn't. Oil spills don't wait for the U.S. Senate to agree. The world outside of Washington, D.C., keeps going. Our leaders need to catch up.
The most vulnerable among us -- particularly low-income communities and communities of color -- are feeling the immediate impact and bearing the brunt of our leaders' inaction. We can't let the lives and dreams of the American people become casualties of a political system governed by special interests. It is critical for us to outshout, outmuscle, outsmart, and outvote those special interests. The Senate's inaction is unacceptable, and we've got to tell them so.
There is no doubt that this administration has had its hands full during its first 18 months in office, and there have been signs of progress. We are incredibly proud to have been partners in the single largest investment in clean energy in our nation's history, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The House of Representatives passed the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which includes $500 million in funding for green-jobs training and would create the first-ever Green Construction Careers Demonstration Project. But it has been nearly a year since ACES passed, and these gains won't become law without the Senate on board.
The recently passed Arizona immigration law -- better described as a racial-profiling law -- is getting a lot of national attention, as it absolutely should, and shining light on the need for an immigration overhaul. I've heard the story around D.C. that immigration reform is somehow responsible for the delay on climate legislation.
This shouldn't be divisive: Both climate legislation and immigration reform are urgent, and Congress needs to get both done in 2010.
What is required now is the leadership to bring us across the finish line. That doesn't just mean getting any bill passed, but legislation that aggressively deals with the environmental and economic crises before us. It means passing a bill that protects our air and oceans, fosters unprecedented job growth in our communities, and, above all, a bill that is in the interests of the people, not of special interests.
The victories won thus far are stepping stones, but we can't get where we need to be without comprehensive climate and energy legislation. There is a very real danger that we will fail to realize the full potential of an inclusive green economy for America. The window of opportunity to act, to make significant headway against the climate crisis, and to become a player in a global green economy won't be around forever.
President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid need to start fighting for the future of our country. They need to govern like our lives, not their political careers, depend on it.