Published May 12, 2009
The top House Democrat charged with navigating controversial "cap and trade" energy legislation through Congress announced Tuesday that the bill will pass the House Energy and Commerce Committee before Memorial Day.
While the panel repeatedly has had to postpone taking up the energy bill because of concerns from a significant number of moderate Democrats, Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said Tuesday that he is still on pace to meet his extremely ambitious schedule.
"By the end of next week, we will consider and pass the energy legislation," he said in remarks to the National Community Pharmacists Association annual conference.
In a briefing Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also was adamant that the bill would go through the final committee stage next week and then be tackled on the floor sometime over the summer.
Hoyer said he was "hopeful we'll move those out of committee before the Memorial Day break" which starts at the end of the next week.
Waxman said the quick passage of the energy legislation, which features a plan to cap carbon emissions and allow power companies to buy and sell credits to emit extra carbon dioxide, is vital in order for the committee to then take up health care reform legislation this summer.
"President Obama wants to get things done. He has pledged to take on big issues," Waxman said. "So as chairman of the committee, I want to be his partner. And our committee has two of the three of his legislative legacies ... health care and energy."
Waxman also predicted that the House will take up and pass health care reform by July 31.
The energy bill lays out an ambitious timetable calling for domestic carbon emissions to be reduced by 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. It also requires that 25 percent of U.S. power will be produced by renewable energy sources by 2025.
But Republicans and a number of moderate Democrats, many from the Rust Belt, have raised concerns about the timetables and argue that as proposed, the cap and trade legislation will raise costs for consumers and hurt business during a recession. The opposition from the moderate Democrat wing has stymied Waxman's ability to move the bill to the floor in recent weeks.
Rep. GK Butterfield, D-N.C., called the 2025 goal "impossible" during a committee hearing in April, adding, "I am particularly concerned that the economic impact will be particularly devastating on low income families in America. Low income families simply cannot absorb the increase in consumer prices that are sure to come."
But Waxman was optimistic Tuesday that Democrats have reached a middle ground on a number of sticking points including how to distribute the pollution credits, though he would not discuss the details of the compromise.
"What we have been doing is trying to reach out to all the different industry groups and the environmental groups and try to develop a consensus for legislation," Waxman told FOX News after his remarks.
Waxman added that he will be meeting privately with members of the Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday afternoon to discuss the next steps forward in order to take up the bill.
"This bill is a very high priority for our committee," he said.