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Obama and Biden Press House Democrats for Quick Action on Climate Bill

Updated 6:11 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray and Juliet Eilperin
President Obama and Vice President Biden urged a group of House Democrats at a White House meeting this morning to move forward with climate-change legislation that has become a subject of controversy among some Democrats and threatened to stall health-care reform.

The president asked a group of 34 House Democrats for quick action on a bill written by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and energy and environment subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to cap greenhouse-gas emissions by distributing carbon permits to polluting companies. Maximum emission rates would decline over time under the Waxman-Markey plan, forcing companies to adopt alternative energy sources or cut consumption.

Democratic Reps. Jay Inslee (Wash.) and Doris Matsui (Calif.), who both attended the meeting, said the president emphasized the historic nature of the climate bill.

"He told us, sometimes we do things of real impact. And none of us would want to look back in twenty to thirty years and think we had punted on something of a historic nature," Inslee said.

Obama has two reasons to lean hard on Waxman's committee: He wants to show progress on a major campaign pledge to address global warming, and he wants to clear Waxman's agenda for the health-care reform bill that is the panel's next order of business.

The fiscal 2010 budget sets an Oct. 15 deadline for the health-care legislation to clear the House and Senate under special budget rules that would protect it from a Senate filibuster.

Waxman and Markey had hoped for a committee vote on the so-called "cap and trade" plan by Memorial Day, although the Senate is moving at a much slower pace. But during hearings last week, Democrats on the House panel raised a series of concerns, including the bill's potential harm to coal-producing states and the prospect that industry costs would be passed on to consumers.

By late Tuesday, Waxman was considering bypassing a subcommittee markup on the bill in favor of the full committee, where leaders could afford to lose more Democratic votes, but he said "no final decisions on process have been made."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs read a synopsis of the meeting at his daily briefing this afternoon. "The President outlined core principles that should guide the energy legislation as the Committee finalizes it," Gibbs said. "The President believes that consumers and communities should be compensated if, during the transition period, there are any additional costs associated with reducing carbon emissions. He believes there should be predictability and certainty in the market, so that entrepreneurs can make major private sector investments in clean energy innovation. He also believes that regional impacts should be taken into account and addressed -- and that our trade sensitive industries need to be protected."

"Cap and trade is a tax, and it's a great big one," Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) told Al Gore when the former vice president appeared to testify on Friday. Dingell, who was ousted by Waxman as committee chairman, was paraphrasing the GOP's widely repeated "cap and tax" attack line.

Rep, Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a key swing vote on the committee, said he and other Democrats were "making real progress" in hammering out a compromise. The president, Boucher added, "is trusting us to work things out in committee, and he's not putting down markers."

Waxman told reporters after the meeting that his Memorial Day deadline for a committee vote still stood, although beyond that, the bill's timing remained vague. He said he and Markey would be "mindful of the regional concerns and the ratepayers" as it moves forward with the cap-and-trade bill.

"The president says he wants legislation, he wants us to move as quickly as possible," Waxman said. "We said we're moving it this year and he didn't object."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters at a Capitol briefing Tuesday morning that although Democrats had not reached consensus on the climate change bill, "I think they can still get there" by the end of May.

Matsui said the meeting gave members a sense of the importance of reaching an agreement that could ultimately pass muster in both chambers. "We're very diverse," she said of Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats. "If we can come together will a bill on that committee, we'll have a bill that can go through the Congress."

Democratic lawmakers and the White House did agree to move forward with a "cash for clunkers" plan providing incentives for drivers to trade in their old cars for more efficient new models, which Matsui said signaled movement on the overall bill. Under the agreement, which will last for a year and cover roughly one million new car and truck purchases, consumers will be able to trade in older vehicles and receive vouchers worth up to $4,500 to help pay for new, more fuel efficient cars and trucks. In addition to lowering pollution, the proposal is aimed at jump-starting U.S. auto sales.

"We have the momentum," Obama told lawmakers toward the end of the meeting, according to a Democratic source familiar with the session.

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 5, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Comments

Our biggest national security problem is not CO2 emissions or even Al-Qaeda. It is our dependence on foreign oil. So why aren't we taxing foreign (non-North American) oil instead of CO2?

If CO2 is such a nasty gas, why aren't we fast-tracking development of 4th generation nuclear power? Thorium molten salt reactors can effectively eliminate essentially all major safety and proliferation concerns including waste (almost none and short-lived) and the need for pressurized reactors and containment vessels. Wind and solar will never meet demand and fusion may never be attainable. Properly designed and implemented nuclear energy is safe, efficient, and nearly inexhaustible.

No politician who supports cap and trade, doesn't support a tax on foreign oil, or who doesn't actively work for safe nuclear energy will get my future vote and that includes Barack Obama whose campaign I worked for and supported with more money than I could afford.

Do something on energy independence that makes sense! Cap and trade is a misguided nightmare. Drop it and get on with health care reform and a sensible energy policy. Now!

Posted by: FadingFast | May 6, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh, by all means!

Lets move Quickly again!

Don't bother READING anything again, just PASS IT! :-(

"Transparency" my Dimocratic Mascot!

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 6, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Also, keep an eye on the Copenhagen Accord meetings that are coming up. Hillary and Obama likely want to have cap and trade in place here, so that when they sell us down the river in upcoming Copenhagen Accord meetings the initial thrust up the Nation's Colon will already have been accomplished.

The completion of that being signing the US to a cap and trade treaty (like the Kyoto Accord) that will then be run by the IMF or the World Bank who will collect the cap and trade money to distribute to Third World Countries. This treaty will require the consent of Congress but will be easier if a cap and tax is already in place here.

Previously Obama had supported a plan to grant the UN taxing authority. I wonder if he will dredge up that plonker to move forward the New World Order.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 5, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Please call this what it is. The Cap and Tax plan. This is a scam and is a tax that will eventually send trillions of US dollars to Third World Countries. There will be promises by the governement that it will not be a tax on consumers, but that will be quickly forgotten.

If we want to spend trillions on our environment then spend it on cleaning up our rivers, lakes and coast. Spend the money here on our industry to clean up emissions.

Any of these cap and tax schemes will hit the US consumer in the pocket book by increased fees and taxes. There is discussion about installing a GPS in every vehicle so they can tax every mile that you drive. A tax on any product containing petroleum products like plastic. The list goes on. The government, banks, big business and the "environmentalists" are all rubbing their hands waiting for this scam to be shoved up the Nations colon.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 5, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

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