CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION PASSES HOUSE
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The highly controversial climate change or "cap and trade" bill narrowly passed the House late Friday with supporters claiming the legislation will slow global warming and most Republicans saying it will kill jobs and cost American consumers millions in higher energy costs.
Officially known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the legislation crafted by Democratic Reps. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California passed the house 219-212 despite strong opposition from the American Farm Bureau Federation which had called for its defeat.
All seven members of the Alabama congressional delegation voted against the measure. In all, 44 Democrats voted against the legislation, and all but eight Republicans opposed it. Republican representatives voting for the measure were California's Mary Bono Mack, New York's John McHugh, Washington's Dave Reichert, Illinois' Mark Kirk, Delaware's Michael Castle and three New Jersey Republicans Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo and Christopher Smith.
Despite the narrow victory, the Waxman-Markey bill still faces an uphill battle. The Senate must now take up the matter, but must still craft its own legislation. If that legislation passes the Senate, it will have to be reconciled with the House's version in conference committee. Once that is finalized, it must then be reconsidered by both bodies of Congress before it can be sent to President Barack Obama.
Rick Krause, senior director of congressional relations for AFBF, says the narrow vote in the House means it will be a challenge for the bill to gain the 60 votes required for passage in the Senate. With health care reform expected to take priority in the Senate, many Senators may be reluctant immediately to tackle another bill that will be controversial and expensive.
"The Democratic leadership had to twist a lot of arms to get the necessary votes for the bill to pass the House," Krause said. "The dynamics in the Senate are different. Farm Bureau sees much stronger opposition to the bill in the Senate."
AFBF remains strongly opposed to the bill despite the inclusion of an amendment by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) that calls for the Agriculture Department to manage an offset program for farms, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency.
While the Obama administration praised the legislation as an historic step toward a cleaner planet, GOP lawmakers roundly criticized the bill as a tax on all Americans coping with millions of lost jobs amid a recession.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill a "light-switch tax" that will cost consumers more for gasoline and more on their monthly power bills. Many lawmakers point out that any gains in cleaner energy would be minimal at best, and would be offset by China and India which won't be encumbered by such harsh regulations. Furthermore, some lawmakers say the higher energy costs will likely force companies to ship more jobs to countries without government regulations.
The legislation would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent AFBF by 2050. The bill also would limit heat-trapping pollution from factories, refineries and power plants and issue allowances for polluters. About 15 percent of those allowances would be auctioned by bid and the proceeds used to defray higher energy costs for lower-income individuals and families.
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