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Climate Change Legislation May Hit the House This Week

June 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

All last week and until last night, prospects were looking pretty bleak for the House’s climate change bill, The American Clean Energy and Security Act, to be ready for a vote this week as scheduled by Speaker Pelosi. The bills sponsors and Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson [D, MN-7] had reached an impasse over including pollution permit allocations for rural electric cooperatives and a few other things concerning farm-state Democrats.

But late last night, the House Rules Committee posted the bill to their website and set a deadline for amendment to be submitted, 9:30 a.m. Thursday 6/25, in time for the bill to come to the floor this Friday. That makes it very likely (though no guarantees) that the bill will in fact see some votes before the week is through.

They also posted a new version of the bill that will be the basis for the House debate this week, should it occur. During the last several weeks of backroom negotiations, likely involving both lawmakers and energy industry lobbyists, the bill has grown in length by 255 pages. According to the NYTimes, “sources on and off Capitol Hill said the bulk of the changes largely reflect requests from the eight other committees that also had jurisdiction over the bill, including the Ways and Means Committee and Science and Technology Committee.”

Read the new bill here (1201-page .pdf)>>

Some points of contention still remain between climate change advocates in the House and rural, more conservative Democrats, though Democratic leaders are saying that they think they can be resolved by Friday. “We’re close enough that we announced it yesterday. And we put ourselves in a position where we could bring it to the floor on Friday,” House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] told reporters at The Hill this morning.

This is a huge bill that, if passed, will have major and lasting effect on our environment and economy. Needless to say, it’s important that the House develops and debates this bill in a way that is transparent and gives the public (and lawmakers) enough time to understand the changes that are being made to it. Paul Blumenthal is rightly concerned about the sudden changes in the bill just before it goes to the House floor:

This raises serious questions about how we expect Congress to disclose their activities to the public. Is a bill posted to the House Rules Committee and not THOMAS truly publicly available? While the bill may be available for 72 hours prior to consideration, the public does not have reasonable access to it. Nor does the public know how the final details were reached.

And that isn’t even the worst part. This, apparently, isn’t even the final bill. The final bill will be a manager’s amendment that will be drafted later this week! From a posting on the House Rules Committee, we know that the deadline to submit amendments is Thursday at 9:30am. And there is talk that this will be voted on on Friday. Thus, the final version of this bill will likely only be available for less than 24 hours.

Sunlight has been advocating for all bills to be posted online for 72 hours prior to consideration. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen here. If you think that Congress should read the bills they vote on, you can tell your congressman to both support the Read the Bill resolution, H. Res. 554, and to give the public enough time to read the final version of the cap and trade bill, whenever that is made available.

For more information on what changes were made in the version posted to the Rules Committee website last night, see NYT and Grist,

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