- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2009

The House on Friday narrowly approved a sweeping climate change bill backed by Democratic leaders and President Obama.

By a vote of 219-212, the chamber approved a bill that, starting in 2012, would limit carbon dioxide pollution, require increased usage of renewable energy and require that consumer products be more energy efficient.

Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, and 44 Democrats defected from their party to vote against it. Earlier in the day, the House rejected a Republican alternative to the Democratic climate bill. The proposal, defeated 172-255, would have scuttled a proposed cap-and-trade system to cut greenhouse gases.

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The focus on climate change legislation now shifts to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada wants to bring a bill to the floor by mid-September. To do so, however, he will have to overcome regional divisions within his party over renewable energy and over the cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions.

The House bill would, for the first time:

• Force cuts in domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent in 2020 and 83 percent in 2050 through an expensive cap-and-trade permit system on heavy emitters and the oil and gas industry.

• Mandate greater renewable energy usage.

• Boost appliance and building efficiency standards.

• Pay for domestic and overseas plant and forest conservation.

The outcome was a victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, both of California, who spent most of the day persuading reluctant lawmakers to put aside their concerns and vote for the bill.

Passage also gave a boost to Mr. Obama, who personally lobbied wavering Democrats over 24 hours to ensure passage.

Mrs. Pelosi said the measure was about creating jobs. Rep. John A. Boehner, the House Republican leader, said the bill was rushed.

While it appeared uncertain Friday whether they would have the votes to pass the bill, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Waxman prevailed on a key procedural test early in the day.

A motion to begin debate passed by 217-205, and a handful of known supporters of the final bill missed that procedural vote.

Still, a group of 30 Democrats opposed the motion, an illustration of why arm-twisting continued throughout the day. Many lawmakers feared they would be punished by their constituents for voting for a bill that eventually could increase the cost of electricity and gasoline.

The Congressional Budget Office and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that households will have to spend between $80 and $340 more a year on energy if the legislation becomes law. That was far less than the $3,000 or more per year cited by opponents.

Passage of the bill was a setback for Republicans, who, alongside business and oil-and-gas groups, fought the measure. Republicans repeatedly called the legislation “Nancy Pelosi’s national energy tax” and said it would cause huge job losses and higher energy prices.

“The jobs will go to China and the economy will go to hell,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. “The truth about this bill is that it raises taxes, kills jobs and will lead to more government intrusion,” said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia.

Members of the Democratic coalition behind the bill defended it as a job creator and a boon to needed environmentalism.

Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan, the former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill was a better alternative than doing nothing, because a 2007 Supreme Court decision declared carbon dioxide a public health threat.

He said federal regulators might soon decide on their own to demand cutbacks on pollutants that cause global warming.

He said the court’s decision, which prompted an endangerment finding by the EPA this year that sets the stage for future government regulation of greenhouse gases, is a warning for all lawmakers.

“If you want something to shudder about, I beg you to take a look at that. Because, we will see better than 300 different regulations from federal and state bodies in charge of this,” Mr. Dingell said.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who was presumed to be undecided, declared his support for the bill, despite not winning provisions to encourage the production of more flexible-fuel automobiles.

Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he would vote for the bill because it included provisions to protect the poor from higher utility costs and would encourage renewable-energy jobs in low-income inner cities.

“This is a great bill, this is a good bill, this is a bill that should pass,” he said.

Mr. Waxman spent time on the House floor assuaging the concerns of Democratic lawmakers. He also discussed plans to revisit the bill’s regulation of carbon trading with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat.

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