Cap and Trade Conclave at the White House

FOXWIRE: President Obama is summoning Democratic members of the House Energy Commerce Committee to the White House Tuesday morning to discuss a path forward on his controversial climate legislation.

It's an effort to bridge divides that threaten to torpedo one of the touchstones of Mr. Obama's young presidency.

"He's got to get people focused on a higher purpose," said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., one of the president's biggest backers of the package and a lawmaker who plans to be in attendance.

When asked who Mr. Obama needed to focus, Inslee deadpanned "The members of the Energy and Commerce Committee."

Inslee's response indicates the fractious nature of the bill, especially among Democrats.

The main authors of the legislation, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., planned to forge a final version of the bill last week.

But a disparate coalition of House Democrats representing coal interests, the steel industry and nuclear power have banded together to temporarily stall the plan.

For instance, southwestern lawmakers 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-Tex.

"Nobody said solving global warming was going to be easy," said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., speaking for the steel industry in his western Pennsylvania district.

The bill is known colloquially on Capitol Hill as "Cap and Trade." That means it "caps" carbon dioxide emissions and requires firms that emit greenhouse gasses to purchases permits to discharge materials into the air.

Firms can also trade for the right to pollute more.

Republicans have derided the legislation as a "tax" bill. And many Democrats have reservations about how the bill will impact the industries in their districts.

"We're trying to deliver for him," said Waxman of Mr. Obama's goal. "We haven't reached an agreement that makes everybody comfortable yet."

But Waxman indicated it was still his intention to craft a final bill by Memorial Day.

Other members of the committee suggested that it's critical for the president to make his case on climate change.

But that argument 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."

Butterfield added that it was now time to shift the debate "from the political to the policy."

For his part, Mike Doyle said that there was "no person better" than President Obama to do that.

"He may just hat thought it was appropriate to get involved (now)," Doyle said.

One participant who's seen his share of White House meetings over the years is the most senior member of the House, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., Chairman Emeritus of the Commerce panel. Dingell wonders how dialing back emissions could impact the already flailing auto industry in his home city of Detroit.

"White House visits take on all different forms," said Dingell of Tuesday's conclave. "We've made a lot of progress. But there's still a lot of progress to be made."