Waxman-Markey climate bill taken off the fast track by House leaders
“It doesn’t have to be this month,” Waxman said. “It could be July. But July is going to be awfully crowded with health care. We’ve got to get the bills to the floor and passed by the end of July. And that’s our goal. Both climate and health care.”
So says House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) about his big climate bill in today’s E&E News (subs. req’d).
While the House leadership definitely had been putting out the word that energy and climate legislation was on the fast track (see here), Pelosi appears to have reconsidered after meeting with key committee chairs, as E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reported last night.
Indeed, today we learned that the bill has a long way to go to get to the floor. First, there’s Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.):
Rangel confirmed his intention to formally mark up the climate bill, rather than simply offer amendments on the floor or sign off completely on the measure. “We are going to have a real, true markup,” he told reporters. “It is in our jurisdiction, we owe it to the committee, and to the Congress to have a markup and to get on the floor and explain what we have done.”
Then we have the Aggies:
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who sits on both the Agriculture and Ways and Means committees, suggested that the entire legislative process could be slowed until Democratic leaders deal with the farm state lawmakers. And the Agriculture Committee members cannot move forward until they resolve their concerns with biofuels and U.S. EPA, Pomeroy said.
The good news is, she remains optimistic, which suggest the bill will get approved by the House this summer:
Speaking with reporters in the Capitol, Pelosi said she saw no significant hurdles to moving the climate bill approved last month by the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“I’m optimistic we’ll be able to move forward in a timely fashion so that our legislation will pass the House and send a clear message about Copenhagen,” Pelosi said, referring to U.N. negotiations this December on an international climate treaty. “But I’m not putting any deadlines on it. It’ll go to the floor when we are ready. They will pass bills out of their committees when they are ready.”
“I’ll leave it up to the chairmen to talk about their plans and how they’re moving to the floor, having their own discussions in marking up the bill,” she said.
Well, Copenhagen is in December, so that is a big walk back timing-wise. Also, the buzz had been that committees might not have to pass the bill out, but merely work with House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) on a manager’s amendment that contained agreed-upon changes.
If the bill actually has to be voted on Agriculture or Ways and Means, the process will slow down sharply. Still, key players are still floating the possibility of a house vote at the end of June:
Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a lead co-author of the climate legislation, confirmed today that Democrats are still weighing a fast-paced schedule that would lead to floor debate before the Fourth of July recess — all while juggling health care. “Could be,” Waxman said. “Late June. Early July.”
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the co-sponsor of H.R. 2454, said he would remain an active player with Peterson and Rangel as the debate advances.
“The bill that Chairman Waxman and I constructed is the central vehicle,” Markey told reporters. “But all of these other committees have very important roles to play. Ways and Means and Agriculture are at the top of the list. We will have to work closely with the committees to produce legislation that reflects the consensus that has to be produced in order to move something of this historic magnitude.”
I think the smart money is now drifting towards a House vote after the 4th of July, since the House recesses from June 29 to July 3 (full 2009 House calendar here). But the summer recess start August 3, and that doesn’t leave a lot of time to handle that other important complicated piece of legislation — health care:
Democratic leaders also pushed back against questions that Congress and the Obama administration cannot deal in tandem with energy and climate change. “The president has been unrelenting in his support on climate change moving, as he has been on health care,” Markey said. “These are priorities 1 and 1a for both the speaker and the president.”
“There’s time for both if we set our minds to it,” Baucus added. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Obama plans an aggressive push for his health care reform package later this week, prompting a question during today’s White House press briefing if the president would do the same on global warming.
“Well, cap and trade seems ahead of health care at the moment,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs replied. “I think that you’ve heard the president not just throughout his few months here at the White House, but throughout the campaign talk passionately about both issues. And I think we continue to be heartened by progress that’s being made in Congress to address how to make ourselves more energy independent and protect our planet, and how do we drive down the costs for families and small businesses struggling with the rising cost of health care.”