Forecasting climate votes in the Senate

Nate Silver, the statistician who gained prominence in the last election cycle with his predictions for the presidential race, has modeled the prospects of the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the Senate. The analysis is necessarily based on a number of assumptions, such as that the bill doesn’t change in its progress to the Senate floor. So its an artificial exercise, but an interesting one.

Silver’s model finds 51 votes with a reasonably high probability (75% or higher) of voting in favor of the bill (that’s not how Silver divides up the probabilities, but there’s a clear split in his model between Mark Begich of Alaska (77.98%) and the next highest Senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine (55.13%)). That would be barely enough to pass the bill, but not nearly enough to break a threatened filibuster. Silver sees 9 problematic votes in the Democratic caucus and only 2 Republicans (Snowe and Collins of Maine) with a double-digit probability of breaking ranks with their party.

Silver’s conclusion:

Overall, this is a slightly better assessment than I expected. Although the model considers only 52  Senators to be more likely than not to vote for the bill, there are somewhere between 62-66 votes that are perhaps potentially in play. But . . . further compromises would almost certainly be needed, some of them designed to placate as few as one senator. The question is how many ornaments the Democrats could place on the Christmas Tree before it starts to collapse under its own weight.

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Reader Comments

One Reply to “Forecasting climate votes in the Senate”

  1. It’s not often that we hear good news on this forum. Some say Waxman-Markey will come to the floor of the Senate this summer, others say fall, and some say never. If it fails this year then the Senate will probably not bring it up again during the 2010 election year, and we may have to wait until 2011.

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About Holly

Holly Doremus

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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