Why, oh merciful God, why?
From Roll Call:
The House passed sweeping climate change legislation on a 219-212 vote Friday afternoon, delivering a major victory for President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to cap the first half of the year.
Obama, Pelosi and Democratic leaders had launched an all-out lobbying effort at the start of the week and were whipping the bill right up to the vote. It was unclear all day whether Democrats had enough votes to clear the package, with leaders acknowledging the vote would be razor-thin.
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) stalled the passage of the bill for over an hour by reading the bulk of a 300-page Peterson-Waxman compromise amendment on the House floor.
He contended that no Member of the House had time to read the lengthy amendment because it was filed at 3 a.m. Friday.
Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) attempted to stop Boehner about 10 minutes into the Ohio Republican’s one-man filibuster and requested that Speaker Pro Tem Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who was confirmed Friday to a State Department position, limit the time that Boehner could consume.
Tauscher, citing House tradition to allow the Minority Leader as much time as he chose to consume, declined Waxman’s request, resulting in a cheer by rank-and-file Republicans.
The cap-and-trade bill, which would require steady reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and would set a national standard for renewable electricity, now heads to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.
The House win was especially sweet for Pelosi, who sees the bill as her legacy project and has put her credibility on the line by bringing it to the floor without the votes in hand.
Pelosi for weeks had been cracking her whip to move the measure along after it passed the Energy and Commerce Committee, pressuring other chairmen, notably Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), to forgo markups so the measure could come to the floor before the July Fourth recess.
The Speaker effectively squashed Members, including those in her own leadership, who preferred a carbon tax, as well as many rank-and-filers who were reluctant to vote on such a sweeping bill without any guarantee that anything will come out of the Senate.
Democrats credited Waxman and Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for striking compromises and putting together a diverse coalition of support that included just enough Members from key districts representing coal, steel, oil and agricultural interests.
Key to its passage were deals with coal-district Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) in committee and a breakthrough with Peterson earlier this week to pave the way for the vote.
But a series of smaller agreements and promises also were made to secure wavering votes, including strengthening trade provisions, adjusting regulations of the new carbon market and adding language to prevent any state from getting a windfall.
Leadership also assured Members such as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) on Friday that regional issues would continue to be refined in conference committee with the Senate. Kaptur and dozens of other Members have complained that other regions of the country already get excessive energy subsidies.
Republican leaders whipped strongly against the vote for the legislation they called “cap and tax,” warning it would wreck an economy already in recession and send jobs overseas.
With energy behind them, House Democrats now can focus squarely on passing a health care overhaul next month.
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