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A Tree Grows on Capitol Hill

Earlier this afternoon, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) helped plant a tree on the East Front of the Capitol to commemorate Earth Day. Before amazed onlookers, the tree immediately grew to a towering height and gobbled up tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, lowering the Earth's temperature and saving untold future generations from certain doom.

Actually, none of that happened (except the first sentence). But just as Tax Day was the jumping off point for all manner of press releases and weighty rhetoric, so too has Earth Day been the natural occasion for equal measures of legislative proposals and partisan squabbling. CongressDaily (temporarily free for all to read) reports that three key House Democrats have been circulating specific guidelines for so-called "cap and trade" legislation to reduce greenhouse gases 15-20 percent below current levels by 2020. At the same time, a group of top Senate Democrats gathered today to denounce Hill Republicans and the Bush administration for allegedly "demonstrating that they are more interested in preserving the interests of big oil companies than in preserving our planet for future generations."

For their part, Republicans are mocking Democrats' small-potatoes legislative agenda of late, while complaining that the majority has done little to reduce gas prices. The GOP has taken to calling the rise in fuel costs since the Speaker took office the "Pelosi Premium," in hopes that the phrase will catch on. (Is Capitol Briefing playing into their hands just by repeating the term? Discuss in the comments section below.)

Passing broad environmental legislation has been an important goal for Pelosi (witness her "Greening the Capitol" initiative), but has run into roadblocks from some in her own party, most notably House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.). Last week, President Bush called for voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and there was a brief flurry of interest in the idea that the administration might actually want to cut a deal on the subject before he leaves office. But Democrats would rather wait to get one of their own in the White House than compromise with a lame-duck Republican president, while the Hill GOP doesn't seem interested in cutting a deal now either. When will a sweeping climate change bill actually get signed into law? It could be as soon as next year. Or when that new tree outside the Capitol grows up. Whichever comes second.

By Ben Pershing  |  April 22, 2008; 5:17 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda  
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