Senior House Republicans complained today that Democrats are sidestepping key committees as they try to cobble together the votes for floor passage of a comprehensive energy and global warming bill.
Eight GOP committee ranking members insisted today that their panels should be given the chance to conduct oversight or markup on H.R. 2454, the nearly 1,000-page climate legislation that Democratic leaders are considering passing through the House by next week.
"It's unprecedented the Ways and Means Committee has not looked at all these tax items," said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), ranking member of the powerful panel that is expected to weigh in on the global warming bill through a manager's amendment.
"It's essential we have hearings before we erect a multibillion-dollar derivatives market overnight," argued Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, which is also planning to make changes to the original bill without holding a formal markup.
To date, only the Education and Labor and Foreign Affairs committees have formally signed off on the climate bill approved last month by the Energy and Commerce Committee. Six other committees still have jurisdiction, though they also face a deadline today of either completing their work or ceding their turf.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she would give the committees a bit more time to work on the climate bill, but she is also urging for deals to be cut soon in order to bring the legislation before the full House.
Pelosi has yet to say when the House floor debate will begin, though Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told reporters today that he was still trying to wrap up the negotiations in time for floor passage before the end of next week, when lawmakers break for the July Fourth recess.
House Democrats at the center of the climate debate offered different perspectives on the floor timing.
"They want to be on the floor Thursday," said Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, a key member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
But Agriculture Committee member Tim Walz of Minnesota said the process was going too fast, especially if lawmakers must vote on final pasage next week without first getting a copy of the bill before heading home for the weekend. "The timeline is too short," he told reporters in the Capitol.
For his part, Waxman was far from ready to be definitive. "Maybe we will, maybe we won't," he said.
The biggest holdout remains Walz and other Democrats on the Agriculture Committee.
Staff are busy today writing legislation on several key issues, including a plan for giving between 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent free allowances to rural electric cooperatives, Walz said. Democratic aides also are working on a "side deal" that splits offset management between U.S. EPA and the Agriculture Department.
Lawmakers involved in the talks said today that progress has slowed on the negotiations, making it uncertain if details would be ready by today or Monday.
"Progress is not being made as fast as we'd like," Waxman said today of the staff-level talks.
Democrats also pushed back against the GOP attacks on the climate bill, saying they have been reaching out to key committee leaders and rank-and-file members, as well as a small group of moderate Republicans who have shown an interest in working on global warming legislation.
"House Republicans continue to advocate for the dirty and expensive failed energy policies of the past," Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, said today. "The comprehensive clean energy jobs package is the product of hard work and consensus, a process that has cut across regional differences to forge a new direction to cut carbon pollution, create new clean energy jobs and ensure our country's national security."
House Science Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) predicted yesterday that Democratic support would grow in the coming days as authors of the legislation answer questions about the measure. "Part of it is becoming more familiar with the bill," he said, adding that his panel plans to fold a new section into the global warming bill that establishes a National Climate Service at the Commerce Department.
Republicans countered during their morning press conference that the House climate bill would push jobs and industry overseas, raise energy bills on Americans and ignore the need for expansion of domestic energy production.
"This is the largest tax increase in the history of the United States, and probably the world," insisted Rep. John Mica of Florida, the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The GOP members have little recourse to actually block the Democrats' plans to take up the bill. Camp, for example, sent a petition around last week to Ways and Means Committee Democrats that could have forced a markup if six majority members had signed it.
"No takers," Camp reported.
At today's press conference, the GOP leaders also mocked the size of the bill itself, holding aloft a copy of the legislation stuffed into a ringed binder with color-coded tabs that show all the different committees that have jurisdiction over the bill.
"Frankly, I didn't know what this was when I walked in here," joked Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, the ranking member of the Science Committee. "I thought Newt Gingrich was going to be here and these were his notes."