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Dave Roberts:

I’m sure Steve Mufson and Juliet Eilperin didn’t choose the headline, but whoever did, I think it’s a real mistake to refer to the Kerry-Boxer bill as “a bit more ambitious” than its Waxman-Markey counterpart in the House. This became conventional wisdom almost immediately, but it seems to me both wrong and pernicious — the more Kerry-Boxer is seen as a leftward move from the House bill, the more senators who want to be seen as moderate will want to be seen hacking it down.

Dave’s argument is that Kerry-Boxer’s emissions reduction target is only slightly tighter than Waxman-Markey’s (20% vs. 17%) and that when you compare apples to apples, it’s really more like 18% or 19%.  It’s a pretty tiny difference, and the rest of the bill is pretty clearly weaker than Waxman-Markey.  Taken as a whole, it’s less ambitious, not more.

But I’d go further.  The real difference between the two bills is that Waxman-Markey has already gone through the sausage factory and Kerry-Boxer hasn’t.  It’s easy for a draft of a bill to be ambitious, but not so easy for it to stay ambitious by the time it gets to a floor vote.  Comparing a draft to a finished bill is like comparing a fantasy football team to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It’s kind of ridiculous to compare them at all at this stage.

POSTSCRIPT: And while we’re on the subject, yes, global warming is still real.

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