If there's one lesson from the health care debacle, it is that Waxman-Markey was and is a dead end. Many of us objected to the bill on the grounds that it supports a lot of phony offsets for twenty years, imposes lots of costs and regulation in the meantime, and then never really does much to help climate change, given the difficulties of political precommitment. I believe that people with these objections, such as myself, were viewed as "obstructionists" by many or as people who were simply looking for an excuse not to support the bill. But the idea that Congress was just playing around, and had no real will to address the problem, should now be much, much more credible. For all the talk about Waxman-Markey as a "framework," I see plenty of reasons — all the more now — to think Congress never meant to follow through.
The advantage of a carbon tax is that it forces Congress (and others) to demonstrate a certain amount of seriousness up front. A good rule of thumb for a climate change bill is whether a representative voting for it can and will say: "This will raise the price of gasoline in the next six months and that's the whole point."
Megan McArdle predicted all along, even after Ben Nelson folded, that the health care bill will fail because Congress isn't very interested in enacting unpopular policies. That's very good prophecy. It's no accident that she also is skeptical of Waxman-Markey, for reasons related to those expressed above.
I believe the health care debacle should cause all of us to rethink our positions on preferred paths, sequences, and strategies. No matter what your opinion of the health care bill, it's not a pretty picture.