Can’t say I thought there could or should be a climate bill this year (See, “Don’t hold your breath on Lieberman-Warner passing in 2008.”) But what’s going on in that House probably seals the non-deal. E&E Daily (subs. req’d) has the story:
A critical House committee tasked with crafting global warming legislation appears to be stuck in a partisan struggle to find a unified strategy for moving forward.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, complained yesterday that the committee’s GOP leadership won’t allow rank-and-file Republicans to enter negotiations on a mandatory cap-and-trade bill. Without Republicans, Boucher said he doubts there will be legislation.
“We cannot and we should not try to pass a bill through the committee and through the House that is a purely partisan bill,” Boucher said in an interview. “That would be bad policy and I do not think it’d be politically successful either. So unless the Republicans are prepared to cooperate with us, it’s difficult to see what the next step is.”
Hmm. I guess Boucher isn’t a big climate bill fan, if he’s tying its fate to what conservatives want. As if conservatives ever cared what progressives thought when they were running the House. The rest of the story continues:
Boucher has repeatedly said he wants to write a global warming bill with support from congressional Republicans and key industrial sectors that also can win a signature from President Bush. But with the clock ticking on Bush’s final year in office and the entire 2008 session, the 13-term lawmaker said he was growing impatient.
Boucher criticized Bush for not being more specific last week during a Rose Garden speech that spelled out several “principles” for the climate debate, including a goal to freeze U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. And he also singled out House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) as perhaps the biggest stumbling block for Democrats who want to move a cap-and-trade bill.
“There are Republicans on the committee that want to work with us and have told me that,” Boucher said. “But until the ranking Republican on the committee accepts our invitation to fully engage, they are constrained.”
Asked for the cut-off point when Barton would need to come to the table, Boucher replied, “It’s pretty soon.”
Barton said yesterday he was not standing in the way of other committee Republicans who want to work with Democrats on a climate bill. But he also said he had little interest in teaming up with Boucher if that was the main route to action on cap-and-trade legislation. “Well, I guess I’ll say I’d be brokenhearted if there’s not a bill,” Barton joked.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the second highest-ranking Democrat in terms of seniority on the committee behind only Chairman John Dingell of Michigan, predicted Barton would be a difficult catch for Boucher. “If that’s the Republican he wants, he’s going after the hardest one to get,” Waxman said.
Global warming legislation must move in the House through the 57-member Energy and Commerce Committee, a diverse panel that includes coal- and oil-state Democrats such as Boucher who have historically been reluctant to support strong new environmental policies, as well as Republicans including Barton who doubt that there is a link between man-made emissions and climate change.
Given the committee’s dynamics and a host of other factors, Waxman said he expects a cap-and-trade bill won’t become U.S. law until 2009 or 2010.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), another senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he too was doubtful Congress would pass climate legislation this year. But Shimkus also said he sees reasons why it may be better to move now given the environmental positions of the three presidential candidates in the running to succeed Bush.
“I don’t think there’s any illusion that anything can move in this Congress,” Shimkus said. “Although those of us who want to protect jobs and business and industry, there is some sympathy to the argument that you’d rather have Bush sign a piece of legislation than really even the guy I support, which is [Arizona Republican Sen.] John McCain.”
Shimkus said he would defer to Barton on starting cap-and-trade talks with Democrats, though he also cautioned against waiting too long given the prospect of new federal climate regulations following the year-old Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA.
“I know Joe is pretty strong against even going into the negotiations or even talking about it,” Shimkus said. “He’s the ranking member, of course I’m not going to try to bypass him. But I will say that the fear is doing nothing just hands it over to the EPA.”