Democrats Grow Confident of Cap-and-Trade Win
By Paul Kane and Ben Pershing
House Democratic leaders said today they are increasingly confident that they have enough votes to win passage this weekend of climate change legislation, informing former vice president Al Gore that he was not needed in the Capitol to win over wavering lawmakers.
After months of intra-party disputes over a hallmark piece of President Obama's agenda, Democrats crafted a series of compromises on the legislation, known as cap-and-trade, that won support from key corners of the caucus. Resisting declaring victory, the top leaders were optimistic they would pass the legislation Friday or Saturday.
"Well you never know until you take the vote, but we are making progress and I'm very pleased," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at her weekly press conference.
House Majority Leader Steny M. Hoyer (D-Md.), coming from a meeting with the vote-counting team, said Democrats were "over the number right now that we feel comfortable" with, suggesting that they have at least the minimum number of 218 votes needed to pass the legislation. But the goal was to pad the margin to assure that there was wiggle room for any last-minute absences or vote changers.
To feel completely confident, Hoyer said in an interview with The Washington Post: "We've got to get some additional votes to get to 225."
Any level of confidence on the issue is a remarkable turnabout for Democrats, who five weeks ago were locked in internal disputes pitting coastal liberals pushing for hard caps on carbon emissions against Rust Belt and farm-state Democrats warning of the economic impact such an imposition would have on their local economies. In late May Obama summoned members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which drafted the 1,201-page bill, to the White House to push for a speedy resolution, in part so that win or lose the legislative decks would be cleared later this summer for the House to take up his health-care reform proposal.
The legislation -- which Republicans have dubbed "cap-and-tax", warning of higher energy costs -- establishes a complex system allowing businesses that are under their cap for greenhouse gas emissions to trade credits to heavier polluting businesses. It includes $7.5 billion in "green bonds" for a new federal financing agency called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration, extra emission allowances for politically powerful rural electric cooperatives, greater flexibility for states that want to use free allowances for mass transit, and tweaks benefiting a range of companies, including algae-based biofuel producers and major petroleum refiners.
Even if Democrats win in the House, the cap-and-trade system faces an uphill fight in the Senate, where it will need a 60-vote super-majority for passage. The Senate environment committee hopes to take up legislation in late July, with Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) saying today a bill could be on the floor some time this fall.
In the House, Hoyer acknowledged that the final hurdle was winning over Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who demanded the Agriculture Department, not the Environmental Protection Agency, oversee an offset program for farmers who adopt conservation practices that keep carbon dioxide stored in the soil. After tense negotiations that stretched several weeks, leadership gave in late Tuesday to Peterson's demands, bringing with him "a significant number" of votes, Hoyer said.
"I think without Peterson, it would have been tough," he added.
Pelosi was similarly complimentary of Peterson's efforts, searching for the right words of praise before settling on "great."
Democrats still expect a large number of their own caucus to oppose the legislation, but with 256 members of their caucus, Pelosi and Hoyer can spare almost 40 defections and still pass the bill. Originally Gore -- whose work on climate change won a Nobel Peace Prize -- was expected in the Capitol this morning for a pep talk to wavering Democrats, but Pelosi said there was no need.
"It's a question of what was energy efficient for the vice president. We were narrowing the list of the undecideds and thought that perhaps on another occasion we could call upon his time to come here," she told reporters. Back in Tennessee, Gore is phoning lawmakers who want his input on the legislation.
Republicans said Gore's absence was a sign of weakness and that he needed to desperately work liberals who opposed the concessions to Peterson and conservative Democrats who still thought the bill would be an economic hit to their communities. The GOP's campaign arm vowed to hold Democrats accountable in the 2010 elections for the votes they cast on the measure.
"How is a Democrat sitting in a swing district going to tell their constituents with a straight face that they were undecided on whether or not to support a national energy tax until Al Gore or Nancy Pelosi convinced them it was the right thing to do? The cast of characters forcing this vote are putting dozens of Democrat House members into a position they won't be able to defend come 2010," said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Posted by: JoeNTx | June 25, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AntonioSosa | June 25, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AntonioSosa | June 25, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AntonioSosa | June 25, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: C3HEditor | June 26, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: JoeNTx | June 26, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bubbette1 | June 26, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bubbette1 | June 26, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: liveride | June 26, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mb2150 | June 29, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.