This story was updated at 1 p.m. EDT.
House Democrats are expected to close ranks within days on a major energy-and-climate proposal, leading to floor debate and final passage before the July 4th recess, according to key lawmakers and sources tracking the debate.
Behind-the-scenes talks on the comprehensive bill have left only a few critical sticking points, but those issues are expected to be resolved soon as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighs in on an issue at the top of her legislative agenda.
"We will have a bill," the California Democrat said in a brief interview today after her weekly press conference.
Earlier, Pelosi sidestepped questions about the timing of a floor debate starting the week of June 22.
"We will bring the bill to the floor when they are ready, whether it's health care or whether it's energy, when they are ready," Pelosi said, citing work in eight other panels beyond the Energy and Commerce Committee. "That's the process we're involved in, and when we're finished and when we're ready, we'll go to the floor."
Other top House Democrats say that they are working under the assumption that leadership has cleared the way for a floor debate before the Independence Day recess.
"I still want to get that bill to the floor before we get to the July Fourth recess," Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told reporters today. "I think the speaker and the majority leader and the administration agree with that timing and we're going to do all we can to stick to it because after we come back from the July Fourth recess, it is health care for the rest of the month."
The biggest sticking point to date in the climate debate centers on farm-state Democrats. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota said he spoke about his concerns by phone yesterday with Pelosi.
"She wants to get involved in these issues and see if there's a way to resolve them," Peterson said today.
The Peterson added that he is planning to meet later today with Pelosi, Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
"We'll see if we can come to a meeting of the minds about what's practical," Peterson said.
Waxman today said Pelosi's involvement has him upbeat about the prospects of the climate bill.
"The speaker has been very clear she wants this legislation," Waxman said. "And she's been urging everybody to get together, and she's been helpful in banging heads to accomplish the goal of getting compromises and getting the bill worked out."
Waxman added that he will be addressing lawmakers' concerns with changes to his underlying legislation.
"I think we'll have a manager's amendment that will make a lot of improvements to the bill, that'll reflect some changes that we think are appropriate," Waxman said.
Peterson today will chair a hearing on the climate bill that includes testimony from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is expected to push for passage of the legislation. Waxman also goes before the 69-member New Democrat Coalition, which includes Reps. John Crowley of New York, John Barrow of Georgia and Jay Inslee of Washington.
Pelosi has given the eight committees until June 19 to wrap up their work, and most are expected to defer to the Energy and Commerce package along with a number of modifications as part of the manager's amendment. Several House Republicans, including Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Greg Walden of Oregon, said yesterday that they expect Democrats will be able to pass their climate bill, even with minimal GOP support.
And one former Democratic leadership aide said today that the Pelosi-led negotiations are expected to accelerate once Peterson finishes his hearing today.
"I think everything pulls together very quickly after tomorrow," the former House staffer said. "My guess is it moves quickly."
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