Talks stalled Tuesday between President Obama and Democratic lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee over the president's controversial energy legislation that opponents say hurts fossil fuel-producing states, harms businesses and results in a tax on consumers.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill a group of bipartisan lawmakers has introduced its own version of the bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The president's bill, known colloquially as "cap and trade," aims to "cap" carbon dioxide emissions and require firms that emit greenhouse gasses to purchases permits to discharge materials into the air. Firms can also trade for the right to pollute more.
The president invited 36 House Democrats to the White House Tuesday morning to discuss a path forward on the bill in an effort to bridge divides that threaten to torpedo one of the touchstones of Obama's young presidency.
Key lawmakers agreed on a strategy for replacing gas-guzzling cars with more fuel-efficient models, but much tougher negotiations lie ahead on knotty issues such as pricing and capping greenhouse gas emissions from large companies.
The main authors of the Democratic legislation proposed by Obama -- Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. -- forged ahead with a final version of the bill last week. But a disparate coalition of House Democrats representing coal interests, the steel industry and nuclear power banded together to halt the plan.
"Our committee is attempting to develop a consensus," Waxman told reporters after the White House meeting. "Many of the issues split us along a regional basis. But we're talking to each other."
Southwestern lawmakers said they are worried about how the bill could impact the use of fossil fuels.
"I would like to say we need to cover all of the (affected) regions," said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas.
"Nobody said solving global warming was going to be easy," said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., whose western Pennsylvania district represents many in the steel industry.
Rep. Neil Abercrombi, D-Hawaii, said talks with the White House "have essentially stalled," but expressed confidence in the alternative bill introduced by House members from both sides of the aisle.
"We think we're in an excellent position on a nonpartisan basis," he said.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., called the new legislation "ambitious" and "huge." Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said he believes it strikes the right note now.
"This package is the way to move forward," he said. "It's the best plan to pursue."
Republicans had derided the original legislation as a "tax" bill.
"It's a declaration of economic war on the midwest by liberals on Capitol Hill," House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., said on Tuesday.
Democratic members of the committee suggested that it's critical for the president to make his case on climate change, though that idea failed to impress a skeptical Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
"I think the White House has made its position clear from day one," said Butterfield. "I don't see how it can be any clearer."
Waxman indicated it was still his intention to craft a final bill by Memorial Day.
"We're trying to deliver for him," said Waxman of Obama's goal. "We haven't reached an agreement that makes everybody comfortable yet."
Butterfield said it is now time to shift the debate "from the political to the policy."