House Energy panel delays markup of energy and climate bill — in part to accommodate Republicans begging for more hearings

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"House Energy panel delays markup of energy and climate bill — in part to accommodate Republicans begging for more hearings"

In general, I have argued for going a tad slower on the whole process of writing and voting on comprehensive energy and climate legislation.  Now E&E Daily (subs. req’d) reports:

Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have postponed plans for a markup this week of a sweeping energy and global warming bill to allow more time for interparty negotiations and also conceding to a GOP demand for more hearings.

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a letter today to panel members that they would wait at least until next week before beginning the subcommittee markup on their proposed legislation.

In fact, the Dems didn’t have much choice, thanks to some little known parliamentary rules invoked by conservatives:

Also today, all 23 Republican members of the committee invoked a parliamentary tactic that allows the minority to force more hearings on an issue. “Before we move to write this bill into law at a markup session, our members deserve a fair, thorough discussion of the language we have seen, and the language we have not seen,” the GOP members said in a letter to Waxman.

At the same time, it is clear that the endgame negotiations to pass this out of committee will require some effort by Waxman and Markey and Pelosi — and, hopefully, the Obama team:

Democratic leaders on the panel have been meeting since last week with about a dozen of their own moderate and conservative members who have concerns about the scope of the draft legislation. Those closed-door talks focused over the weekend on a nationwide renewable electricity standard and the extent to which industry can purchase offsets for compliance with a cap-and-trade program to control greenhouse gases.

Characteristically, the Politico — which is pretty much evolving into an online version of the establishment media [Note to self:  Beware the dark side, Luke] — played up the drama and missed the irony:

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are postponing consideration of their landmark climate change measure, as moderate Democrats on the panel continue to voice their frustration about a proposal to cap carbon emissions.

Authors of the legislation were expected to roll out their ambitious proposal in greater detail this week, during a series of public meetings before the panel’s Energy and Environment subcommittee. But Republicans on the committee alerted GOP members on Monday morning that the start of that markup would be delayed, according to multiple GOP aides.

Yeah, this was never going to be quick — and I always said it should not have been rushed.  But this spin by the Politico that somehow this is a gleeful scoop by the GOP is just bizarre.  The GOP have wanted more hearings and in fact is insisting on more hearings.

Some process and political points worth noting.  First, it may well be the case that Waxman can’t get the bill he wants out of Energy and Commerce.  That would be too bad, but it would still leave two obvious options.  First, they could just try to take the whole bill to the floor.

Second, they could do what I have been arguing for all along and split the bills into separate energy and climate legislation.  The latter approach would almost certainly guarantee a strong clean energy bill this year while allowing everyone to rethink the messaging and political strategy and get a better climate bill in 2010 than they can get through this poorly thought-out process.

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6 Responses to House Energy panel delays markup of energy and climate bill — in part to accommodate Republicans begging for more hearings

  1. Jim Beacon says:

    Waxman and Markey have tied energy legislation and climate legislation together into one bill because that’s probably they only way they can get climate legislation passed at all — they can give the deniers and delayers some new domestic oil-drilling leases, expedite the EPA permitting process on some new nuke and coal plants, some natural gas pipelines, etc. in order o get them to sign off on a bill which “just happens” to include some climate legislation. Split the issues apart into two separate pieces of legislation, and the right wing would have no reason to even pretend to talk about voting yes on an bill that was exclusively about climate change.

    The danger with this strategy is, of course, that the provisions will become so watered down by this compromising process that the final legislation won’t really be worth much.

  2. Harrier says:

    We would be better off with a strong renewable energy mandate and no carbon cap than a weak renewable energy mandate and a weak-to-moderate carbon cap. In the short term, expanding the use of renewable energy will make a bigger dent in U.S. emissions than a cap-and-trade system.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    What Harrier wrote.

  4. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi David B. Benson and Harrier-

    I actually favor socialist nationalization of the coal fired power plants.

    But if we are going to do this under the current system, there has to be a price of some sort on carbon, I think, and the sooner the better.

  5. CTF says:

    I agree w/ Jim and fear that this legislation could contain so many giveaways that it ends up not being effective at all. I really think we need to be looking at the alternatives–alternatives that don’t require so many concessions–like a carbon tax shift approach.