S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Congress makes first big step towards energy independence

Energy bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives -- On June 26 the House of Representatives barely passed an energy-climate change bill (HR 2454), 219-212, with 8 Republicans voting for it and 44 Democrats voting against it. It took everything Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer could do to get the bill passed. President Obama had a Hawaiian luau at the White House on Thursday night to woo House members, including many recalcitrant Democrats. Republicans were almost unanimously against it and their Minority Leader, according to CQ Politics, made members wait to debate. To quote:

. . . a last-ditch effort by Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, to stall action, with what amounted to a rare House equivalent of a filibuster. Using his unlimited leadership time to circumvent the time limit for debate, Boehner spent about an hour going almost line-by-line through a 300-page substitute amendment filed early Friday morning, questioning individual provisions.

“I hate to do this to you, I really do,” Boehner told colleagues, eager to leave town for the holiday recess. “But when you file a 300-page amendment at 3:09 a.m., the American people have the right to know what’s in this bill. They have the right to know what we are voting on.”

Chairmen Henry Waxman (D-Calif) and Ed Markey (D-Mass), the leading architects of the bill, had to make serious compromises to get the bill passed. The bill would remove the EPA's power to regulate carbon emissions. And reductions in greenhouse emissions at first will fall short of those recommended by the scientific community. The government would give away most of the first round cap and trade credits, rather than forcing polluters to buy them. An important compromise was changing just one word, "finally" to "initially," in order to get the support of one of the coal-and oil-state Democrats, Rep. Rick Boucher (VA). To further quote Jeanne Cummings at,

The initial Waxman-Markey draft exempted only those plants that had been through all the challenge phases of the permit process, including lawsuits. Those were considered “finally” permitted plants. In their vote hunt, the chairmen agreed to change the language to “initially” permitted plants, which means that about 100 plants that are in the various stages of the permit process could be built without meeting new emissions standards.

. . . Waxman defended his compromises, saying they will take the country through “a transition” period that gives the coal industry time to develop technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

“The approach is to be as cost-effective as possible in the transition period, to protect the consumers, the rate payers for electricity,” he said.

The Congressional Budget Office "estimated that the House legislation would cost households an average of $175 a year in 2020," CQ Politics reported. The publication also discussed plans in the Senate for next steps. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), to quote:

. . . are already working with moderate Democrats to craft a compromise.

Boxer plans to start marking up a bill soon after Congress returns from the Fourth of July recess, and Reid intends to bring it to the floor this fall. Reid has asked Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman Tom Harkin , D-Iowa, to find out how to win support from his panel, in an attempt to head off the kind of opposition from farm state lawmakers that delayed the House bill.

President Obama's reaction -- According to John Broder of the New York Times (via Memeorandum 6/29/09), President Obama is "against a provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that do not accept limits on global warming polution." The President disagrees "with a tariff approach." And he predicted that it will be very difficult to get energy legislation through the senate, and could take months and many more compromises. Broder also reported, however, that the President is pleased with the bill, saying "I think it’s fair to say that over the first six months we’ve seen more action on shifting ourselves away from dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels than at any time in several decades."

Paul Krugman's NYT op-ed called it "Betraying the Planet." To quote:

So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

[Post date - June 30, 2009]

See also Behind the Links.

Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. My creative website is at Making Good Mondays. And Carol Gee - Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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