Monday, May 04, 2009

Tricky Politics On House Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill

May 4: House Democrats are engaged in some tricky behind the scenes negotiations attempting to gain support for the Waxman-Markey draft American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) [See WIMS 4/28/09]. Republicans are still pressing for more details and an additional hearing on the bill. While the 13 Republicans members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee, led by Ranking member Fred Upton (D-MI), are assumed to oppose the bill; there is also concern being expressed by some of the 21 Democratic members of the Subcommittee.

Last week's markup was delayed because of both Republican and Democrats concerns. Full Committee Chairman, Henry Waxman (D-CA) has pledged to have the bill approved by the Committee by Memorial Day and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she want a House vote by August.

The twenty-one Democratic Members of the Subcommittee Chaired by Ed Markey(D-MA) include: Mike Doyle, PA; Jay Inslee, WA; G. K. Butterfield, NC, Vice Chair; Charlie Melancon, LA; Baron P. Hill, IN; Doris O. Matsui, CA; Jerry McNerney, CA; Peter Welch, VT; John D. Dingell, MI; Rick Boucher, VA; Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ; Eliot L. Engel, NY; Gene Green, TX; Lois Capps, CA; Jane Harman, CA; Charles A. Gonzalez, TX; Tammy Baldwin, WI; Mike Ross, AR; Jim Matheson, UT; John Barrow, GA; and Henry A. Waxman, CA (ex officio).

In addition to concerns expressed by Subcommittee Democrats G. K. Butterfield, NC; Charles A. Gonzalez, TX; and Gene Green, TX; concerns have also been raised by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) a member of the moderate group of Democrats known as the Blue Dog Coalition; and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

Reportedly, some Democratic leaders are worried that some freshmen Democrats will be forced to vote on the controversial issue which may jeopardize their reelection chances. Other Southern Democrats are negotiating to get more emphasis on nuclear power in the bill and including nuclear and hydroelectric as "renewable" energy sources.

Additionally, Representative Green has reportedly said, “I can’t vote for a bill unless my refineries (are protected) because of the nature of my district, it’s a job base and a tax base”; and others are concerned about the bill’s impact on low-income Americans. Democrats on the Committee are reportedly scheduled to meet with White House officials on Tuesday to discuss the concerns and the Subcommittee is expected to meet further this week to consider the bill.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of those that has expressed concerns, is Co-Chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus and describes himself as a leading supporter of Congressional efforts to address global climate change. Van Hollen introduced his own Cap and Dividend Act of 2009 (H.R. 1862) on April 1. Van Hollen's legislation sets targets for emissions reductions OF 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 for covered emissions, auctions 100 percent of carbon permits, and returns all auction proceeds to consumers in the form of a monthly dividend.

Van Hollen said, “The science of climate change can be complicated, but the legislative solution doesn’t have to be. The strength of cap and dividend lies in its simplicity and durability. All permits are sold at auction, and all proceeds are given back to the American people. As the price of energy rises, the monthly dividends will keep American consumers whole. At its core, any successful climate change bill cannot just reduce carbon emissions. It must attract and retain the long-term, popular support of the American people. I believe the cap and dividend approach offers the best chance to get the job done.”

In an interview with The Hill on April 27, Van Hollen said, "The first thing we need to do is see whether we can come together around a consensus position in the committees in the House, and that’s what we’re working on. And then, of course, if we were able to arrive at that, the question is whether you would take it to the floor, or do you wait to see if anything develops on the Senate side."

Representative Upton, expressed the Republican position on the bill in a lengthy release on April 22. Upton said, "The statistics are startling. According to an MIT model of a 100 percent auction cap and tax, the American people will be taxed $366 billion in 2015 – four times as much as the President's estimate of $80.3 billion for that year. Job losses under such a plan could be greater than 6 million. Increased energy costs would near $1 trillion in 2030. Increases in electricity costs could be greater than 100 percent. A family of four could expect to pay as much as $4,560 in additional costs in 2015. In written testimony, OMB Director Peter Orszag stated that the average household cost would be $1,300 for a 15 percent cut in emissions – this administration is seeking an 80 percent cut. Not quite the prescription our economic maladies desperately require."

Access links to a number of various media reports including Politico, Wall Street Journal, The Hill and more (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 1862 (click here). Access Rep. Upton's complete statement (click here). [*Climate]

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