Pelosi says House can pass cap and trade, but timetable is uncertain

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that she has enough votes to pass cap-and-trade legislation aimed at curbing the effects of global warming but would not commit to holding a vote in 2009.

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Pelosi said she has sufficient backing in the Democratic-controlled House to move a cap-and-trade bill, but will not force the issue. "I'm not sure this year, because I don't know if we'll be ready," Pelosi said. "We won't go before we're ready."

Pelosi acknowledged the December deadline looming over U.N. negotiations toward a new international climate change agreement. "We're sensitive to Copenhagen and the rest of that," she said, referring to the Denmark capital that will host the next annual U.N. conference. "And it's a very high priority for me."

But Pelosi said she could not guarantee that President-elect Barack Obama would be able to sign a cap-and-trade law before Copenhagen.

"I would certainly hope so, but I can't tell you that that is the case right now," she said. "Of all the bills that we have done, you know I sort of know the policies, I know what the possibilities are, this is the most, should we say, controversial, not controversial, mysterious."


Pelosi added, "There's so many ways we can go. We're seeing, studying what the Europeans did. They had to have some trial and error in what they did. And I think we have to be very careful, because we have to do it right, with cap and trade. We have to do it right. I don't think we can take any chances. So this is going to take some very thorough scrutiny as to how we go forward."

Incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will take the lead in 2009 on a climate cap-and-trade bill. But to date, Waxman has not spelled out his plans for that legislation.

"To be determined," replied Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Pelosi's point person on global warming issues, when asked today about prospects for global warming legislation.

Markey added that he still has not made up his mind yet if he will assert his seniority and take the gavel of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee currently held by the more moderate Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.). He said he will make his decision by next week.

Asked about her expectations for the timing of cap-and-trade legislation, Pelosi replied, "I don't know what the timetable will be. A lot of that will relate to how quickly we get through the recovery, whatever else we're doing, and when the bill will be ready. I don't think it's ready."

Proponents of global warming legislation must overcome concerns about the U.S. economy and long-standing opposition from conservative Republicans. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said today that cap-and-trade advocates still do not have enough votes despite Democratic pickups in November.

"I think the momentum really is on our side of the issue," Inhofe said. "The skeptics' side of the issue."

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