It’s no easy feat to win approval from the House Energy and Commerce Committee ahead of schedule. But that’s what the climate and energy bill, which if passed will create a cap-and-trade system for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and mandate increased reliance on renewable sources of energy, did last night. The 33-25 vote came down mostly along party lines.
Chairman Henry Waxman, who drafted the legislation with Rep. Ed Markey, wanted to push the bill through his committee by Memorial Day. Last night’s vote represents a victory for the two authors and other Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats who have been working to build a coalition with more conservative members of their party since a discussion draft of the bill was introduced in late March, with heightened intensity in the last week.
While the group came out with a compromise version (committee members gave in on several of the more ambitious rules) early last week, some details had yet to be finalized. Even so, the coalition defeated 14 hours-worth of amendments proposed by GOP representatives in markup sessions this week.
More hurdles — including a series of votes in other House committees, not to mention the Senate — lie ahead before the bill can make it to President Barack Obama’s desk and be signed into law. Members of the House Agriculture Committee in particular are expected to fight for more offsets for farmers and changes in renewable fuel standards in the legislation. Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan summed up the main basis for opposition among Republican lawmakers, as the New York Times reports, saying that the bill represents “the biggest energy tax in the history of the United States.”
Many environmental groups, on the other hand, are cheering this first round. The World Wildlife Fund’s Director of U.S. Climate Policy, Lou Leonard, said in a release this morning that the bill’s passage in the Energy and Commerce Committee:
“…marks a watershed moment in the decades-long battle to protect our planet from dangerous climate change and all of the economic, environmental and national security vulnerabilities it presents.”
Others, such as Greenpeace, have criticized the compromise version as “drastically weakened…on behalf of fossil fuels industries and other corporate polluters.”