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.