House Democratic leaders late last night released a revamped, 1,201-page energy and global warming bill, clearing the way for floor debate Friday even though it remains uncertain if they will have the votes to pass it.
The House bill posted on the Rules Committee Web site has grown from the 946-page version adopted last month in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sources on and off Capitol Hill said the bulk of the changes largely reflect requests from the eight other committees that also had jurisdiction over the bill, including the Ways and Means Committee and Science and Technology Committee.
Sponsors expect to draft a manager's amendment later this week that reflects additional deals reached among lawmakers, according to several House Democratic aides.
Perhaps the biggest modification in the new version involves language sought by the nation's rural electric cooperatives that gives the country's smallest power utilities a free 0.5 percent slice of the cap-and-trade program's valuable emission allowances.
Democrats are still not done wheeling and dealing as they gear up for a floor debate, with critical issues still unresolved on everything from biofuels to which federal agency -- U.S. EPA or the Agriculture Department -- will have lead oversight of the offset program that would pay for environmentally friendly land management practices.
Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has pressed for weeks to make the climate bill more farm-friendly on those issues, and his aides yesterday said there was still work to do. Peterson's reluctance has added to the pressure on Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who wants to see the House adopt the climate bill before the start of the Fourth of July recess so that he can turn his full attention after the break to President Obama's health care reform plans.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said last night in a statement that negotiations are expected to continue on the climate bill this week.
"There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday," Hammill said. "The speaker, Leader [Steny] Hoyer and Chairmen Waxman and Peterson have all agreed on this approach for moving this historic climate change and clean energy jobs bill."
Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) has given members until Thursday morning to submit possible floor amendments to the climate bill.
Earlier this month, Slaughter said she was leaning toward limiting Republicans to up-or-down votes only on outright alternatives, rather than the dozens of point-by-point amendments that GOP lawmakers pressed for votes on during the Energy and Commerce Committee markup (E&ENews PM, June 4)
Rural electric co-ops, EPA biofuels rule
As for the Agriculture Committee, Democrats appear to have satisfied one of Peterson's top concerns dealing with the free allowances to rural electric cooperatives.
Waxman has agreed to the 0.5 percent of allocations for small electric utilities that have under 4 million megawatts of capacity, as well as a cap on free allowances going to merchant coal generators and other power companies to ensure they do not make any windfall profits.
Glenn English, a former Oklahoma Democratic congressman who now runs the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, praised Peterson for his work on the House negotiations, adding: "We're not going to stand in the way of the passage of the bill."
Pelosi's aide did not say specifically which issues remains to be worked out. However, the bill text released last night does not appear to include further changes to the definitions of "renewable biomass" that applies to either the current national biofuels mandate, or the bill's proposed renewable electricity standard.
Waxman, as part of his effort to reach a deal in his committee, had eased certain limits on sources of biomass that can be harvested to make fuels or electricity under these programs. But Peterson and other farm state members have been seeking further changes.
Also, the bill as posted does not restrict EPA's authority to weigh "indirect" emissions from land-use changes when calculating the carbon footprint of biofuels. The issue is important because under a 2007 expansion of the renewable fuels standard, biofuels must have, to varying degrees, lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels.
Peterson and other farm state members from both parties have savaged a recent EPA proposed rule to implement the RFS, claiming there is not enough science to support measuring these indirect emissions. Peterson has made this opposition a major plank of his fight against the climate bill.
The bill includes some changes from the version that was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee. Lawmakers have removed a section that would have called for a multi-agency effort to study and seek to implement "marine spatial planning" as it related to offshore renewable energy development (E&E Daily, May 19).
Do they have the votes?
Even with the rural electric cooperatives not standing in the way of the climate bill, it is still far from clear if Pelosi and Waxman have all the votes to pass the legislation. Several Democrats have raised red flags about voting for a bill on the floor that comes with near unanimous GOP opposition, as well as no promise of success in the Senate.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), a co-chair of the fiscally conservative House Blue Dog Coalition, said last week that a number of the group's members would be reluctant to support a climate bill if they were given less than a week to review it.
"The coalition is just not going to be ready to vote on this next week, particularly if we don't get language until Monday," she told E&E last week. "Because many will insist that we have a number of days to review the language ourselves, to have back and forth with our constituencies and stakeholder groups, to understand how the system with a significant manager's amendment will work. Yes, absolutely, we need to chew on this awhile."
It is also unclear just how much Obama will personally push for what many consider one of his signature domestic agenda items, especially with public attention so heavily focused on health care. Obama did bring the Energy and Commerce Committee's Democrats to the White House last month before it approved the bill. He also phoned at least one reluctant committee member during the markup -- Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas -- but did not sway his final vote.
Top White House aides tried to broker an agreement last week between Waxman and Peterson, and several Cabinet officials are scheduled to fan out across the country this week for events to highlight the House legislation.
Waxman last week predicted floor passage this week as Democrats begin to more aggressively court votes.
"We'd have to pin people down, go through a whip count and talk to people who have not indicated their support for the bill at this point," Waxman said. "But I think we would have the votes, yes."
Click here to view the bill.
Senior reporter Ben Geman contributed.