What will newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter do for a climate bill's chances? The consensus thus far: Not much. Having a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate would be generally cool for Democrats, but energy specifically isn't a partisan issue. As Sen. Barbara Boxer said about the Specter effect, "I don't think climate change is a matter of party. It is really more a matter of region."

More important is winning over the Democrats' Blue Dog Coalition, many of whom are from coal regions and remain unconvinced on the climate bill. Getting a vote from a Dem like Rep. Mike Doyle, of Pennsylvania, will be tough -- he didn't sound like he believed the U.S. could reach the renewable energy standard called for in hearings last week.

A fellow Pennsylvanian, Specter has no outstanding voting record on climate, or more specifically cap and trade. He co-sponsored the weak "Low Carbon Economy Act" cap-and-trade attempt with Sen. Jeff Bingaman in 2007. And, while he believes that moving a climate bill is "something we ought to do our best to get done," he was one of the votes that derailed cap-and-trade's chances of passing through a budget reconciliation process -- along with 26 Democrats.

But can Specter's mind be changed? He seems at least open to the prospects of renewable energy. Last April, Specter co-sponsored and voted for the Ensign-Cantwell amendment in the housing reform bill for renewable tax credits. He also supported the American Recovery and Recovery and Reinvestment stimulus act that in part expanded renewable energy investment incentives. Plus, it's worth keeping in mind that Pennsylvania is the U.S. headquarters for Gamesa, one of the world's largest wind turbine manufacturers and a promising alternative energy company with regard to jobs.

So Specter at least gets it. But rather than focusing on him for delivering a cap-and-trade saving vote, we should pay attention to Mike Ross, the Arkansas Representative who's down with the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. He's one of 11 Democrats from the House energy and commerce committee who has yet to be convinced to pass the bill. Meanwhile, he holds good sway over Blue-Dog Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. Pryor even told reporters earlier this month, "I guarantee you if Mike Ross is OK with it, it goes a long way with me."

The Blue Dogs are just the kind of Dems with whom Specter can probably play nice. Securing their votes would go perhaps a long way to securing Specter's.

-- Brentin Mock

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