In the end, the promise of green jobs trumped worries about the future of coal. It trumped fears about higher energy prices. It trumped everything for Democrats from Ohio who voted overwhelmingly for the House climate bill, helping secure its passage by the narrowest of margins.
Eight of 10 Democrats from the Buckeye State backed the bill, pleasing environmentalists, companies pursuing renewable power and those wanting a green economy. The votes Friday surprised many who had expected to see more division from a delegation that also answers to coal-powered utilities and manufacturers that consume large quantities of power.
"This is a job issue," said Steve Fought, spokesman for Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who voted for the bill. "This is a jobs recession. If the climate change legislation holds out the potential for thousands of jobs, people are willing to try it because almost everything else hasn't worked here."
The Ohio votes also reveal much about what led to the bill's passage, and perhaps, the opportunities and obstacles in the Senate, analysts and lawmakers' aides said.
The bill's architects, Democrats Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, worked from the very beginning to address concerns from Ohio lawmakers and those from Michigan, which like Ohio is home to auto plants, relies on coal and is battered by staggering unemployment. So the legislation pulled in Democrats representing several states with similar issues.
"This started with a realization on the part of Waxman and Markey when they were starting to put the bill together that there was no way they could do this without accommodating the Democrats from Michigan and Ohio," said Norman Ornstein, scholar at American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. "They were just very much aware that the industrial states, the Midwest states, the auto-dominated states were going to have to get their concerns answered."
Wrapping in those Democrats was essential when few Republicans were expected to vote for the bill.
"You basically had to do it with Democrats alone, but on an issue where you couldn't count on party loyalty because this cut across party lines, it cuts across regional lines," Ornstein said.
Other states with concerns similar to Ohio and Michigan include Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Indiana. In the House, Michigan's eight Democrats and Missouri's four Democrats all voted for the bill. Nine of 12 Democrats from Illinois voted for it. Eight of 12 from Pennsylvania supported it. From Indiana, two of five Democrats voted for the bill.
'Tough road in the Senate'
Democrats from Ohio and those other states will play key roles in the Senate, as well. But concessions made to Democrats from those states in the House bill may not work with Senate Democrats who represent entire states.
"This bill faces a tough, tough road in the Senate," said Sam Thernstrom, resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute. "It's tougher to get the votes out of those states."
There is a "very good chance" of crafting a Senate bill that gets support from Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Ornstein said. It will be tougher, he said, to get Democrats including Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Republican George Voinovich of Ohio supports "a bipartisan, comprehensive and economically viable solution to climate change," he said in an e-mailed letter, "but this should not be done on the backs of working families." He said the House bill "will dramatically increase energy costs."
Ohio's Brown supports climate change policies and is working on Senate legislation that protects consumers from high prices and revitalizes manufacturing, spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said.
Brown worked with Democratic Reps. John Boccieri and Zack Space of Ohio on language in the House bill that sets up a $30 billion revolving loan fund to help small businesses retool, expand or create clean-energy manufacturing operations.
"He believes that climate change must be addressed, and he's committed to passing climate change legislation," Dubyak said.
Ohio House Dems say 'yes,' mostly
Out of Ohio's House delegation, Democrats who voted for the bill included freshman Reps. Boccieri, Steve Driehaus and Mary Jo Kilroy; Marcia Fudge, Zack Space and Betty Sutton, each in their second term; Ryan, in his fourth term; and Kaptur, in her 14th term.
Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Charlie Wilson voted "no."
"They want to be loyal Democrats," Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University, said of those who voted for the bill. He said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House lobbied those lawmakers to back the bill.
Wilson was under unique pressure, Beck said, coming from a district with coal mines.
The bill "didn't go far enough to protect energy consumers and industries in my district," Wilson said in a statement. "Coal must and will play a major role in our nation's transition to energy independence."
In Ohio, 86 percent of electricity comes from coal, Wilson said. The majority of that coal comes from Appalachian Ohio, which is his district.
"Because we are located in an area of the country that heavily relies on coal to turn on the lights and heat our homes, Ohio families and her energy intensive industries, like steel, will bear the brunt of the cost from this version of climate change legislation," Wilson said.
Kucinich wanted the bill to enact tougher policies, saying "it sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term."
Kaptur is among the Democrats who switched from a "probably no" to a "yes" vote after obtaining a late concession from Democratic leaders.
Language that Kaptur wanted was included in the manager's amendment inserted into the bill in the early morning hours Friday. Republicans decried that late insertion, saying there was not time to read the 300-page addition.
Kaptur's language gives the Energy secretary the ability to approve a power-marketing authority in Ohio that could finance and develop renewable-power projects. It would have authority to raise $3.26 billion in financing.
"With the Midwest taking the brunt of the economic crisis, my priority was to bring our region additional tools to create jobs and promote energy independence," Kaptur said.
Of those voting for the bill, the three freshmen had the most to lose. They are most at risk in the 2010 election, said Beck of Ohio State University.
Driehaus won his 1st District seat in southwestern Ohio with 52 percent of the vote. In 2008, he unseated Republican Steve Chabot, who had held it for 14 years. Chabot plans to run again in 2010.
The 2010 election did not factor into the decision to vote for the bill, Driehaus spokesman Tim Mulvey said.
"The congressman decided that supporting the bill was supporting the future of Ohio's economy," Mulvey said. "It was voting for national security. It was voting for job creation. It was voting to combat the growing threat of climate change."
Duke Energy Corp. told Driehaus that electricity bills would rise 5 to 7 percent, information that gave him enough comfort to support the bill, Mulvey said.
Cincinnati will have a role in the new energy economy, with Cincinnati State University and the University of Cincinnati working on renewable power research, Mulvey said. General Electric Co.'s aviation arm and Dow Chemical Co., both in the district, are developing clean power. Both companies supported the bill, Mulvey said.
Chabot now plans to use Driehaus' vote on the bill against him in the 2010 campaign.
"What he has voted for is essentially an energy tax that will be felt dramatically if it became law," Chabot said. "It's going to hit everybody."
Chabot doubts green jobs will arrive in significant numbers.
"For every so-called green job that's created by this bill, there's probably going to be two jobs that are lost," Chabot said.
Freshman Kilroy won her seat with 46 percent of the vote in a five-candidate race. Her office did not respond to several requests for comment.
In a statement, Boccieri cited the revolving loan provision he worked on with Space and Sen. Brown as an important addition to the bill.
"This legislation represents the next step toward freeing our nation from its dependence on foreign resources, and it will help fuel our economic recovery," Boccieri said. "This is about creating jobs right here at home that cannot be outsourced, protecting our national security and helping our manufacturers retool to thrive in a new green economy."
Others who voted for the bill also cited green jobs.
"Northeast Ohio will gain thousands of jobs," Fudge said in a statement.
Space said he voted for the bill because "for too long our energy policy has lined the pockets of Middle Eastern sheiks while driving up energy prices for Ohioans. This bill will help make America energy independent and create thousands of new energy jobs in Ohio."
Ryan issued a statement with an identical theme.
"Our dependency on foreign oil has created hundreds of thousands of jobs over the years in the Middle East and around the world," Ryan said in a statement. "It is time to create jobs in America, and that's what this bill will do."
Jobs for whom?
A leading labor union in Ohio and a trade group for coal mining companies disagreed about whether those green jobs are real.
"We're certainly ready for an alternative plan," said Roger Insprucker, president of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, which represents 75,000 workers. "It's about time that somebody has put their mind to it."
Workers could find jobs in construction, on pipelines, building wind turbines or making solar panels, he said. Those items need to be hauled, as well.
But Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, said coal companies were deserted by all but one member of the Ohio delegation. Wilson, who supports coal, is the exception, Carey said.
The association was in "constant communication" with the Ohio delegation about the bill, Carey said. The association had hoped that Boccieri and Space, who also has coal in his district, might vote against the bill.
"It's disastrous for the coal industry. It will be disastrous for Ohio's economy," Carey said. "And it will lead to the elimination of thousands of jobs in eastern and southern Ohio."
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