GOP Pushes Back Against Dem Energy Deal

GOP Pushes Back Against Dem Energy Deal

By Kyle Trygstad - June 24, 2009

Following an agreement last night with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), House Democrats are poised this week to pass an energy and climate change bill that has stewed in uncertainty since being passed out of committee one month ago.

The bill will now hit the House floor on Friday, with a vote likely to take place by Saturday. The House is in recess next week.

The sudden accord followed weeks of debate within the Democratic Caucus and set off an equally quick response from Republicans, whose leadership continues to oppose the plan offered by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

"House Republicans are opposed to the national energy tax that is reportedly making its way to the House floor this week," House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference on health care. "This is a very bad idea."

Republicans are focusing their argument on the bill's cost -- in taxes and jobs -- especially in coal-producing and agriculture-rich areas. GOP leaders argue it would cost the average household an extra $3,000 per year in energy costs and cite a study released last month by the National Black Chamber of Commerce that predicted the bill would cost 2.5 million jobs.

"Not only will this drive up prices for food, gasoline, and electricity, it will ship millions of jobs to competitors like China and India that refuse to take the same approach," Boehner wrote Tuesday in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner.

Democrats pushed back yesterday by highlighting an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, which found it would cost the average household 22 to 30 cents per day, totaling $80 to $111 extra in energy costs per year.

"Today's report puts to rest the misleading attacks that have been leveled against a clean energy economy at every step," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee shot off press releases yesterday into the districts of Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack -- both second-term lawmakers in formerly Republican districts.

"With fellow Iowa Democrat Leonard Boswell's office stating that the National Energy Tax will hurt Iowa families, it's time for Bruce Braley to come clean and tell his Iowa constituents where he stands on the controversial bill. Does he side with Iowa families or with his liberal leader, Nancy Pelosi?" asked NRCC communications director Ken Spain in one of the releases.

A second NRCC press release went out to 20 other Democrats that represent rural areas. "As Rep. Bobby Bright (D-AL) prepares to vote on the climate change bill in Congress this week, Speaker Pelosi is plotting to snag Bright's vote for her costly, job-killing climate bill at the expense of middle-class agriculture jobs in Alabama," one release states.

House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and other Republicans from coal-producing states have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday morning. The sub-headline of the press release announcing the event reads, "National Energy Tax is Wrong for Coal Country and Will Cost Americans Jobs."

Perhaps muting some Republican arguments against the bill, though, is the support from members like Rep. Rick Boucher (D), who has represented coal-rich southwestern Virginia since being elected to the House in 1982. Boucher penned an op-ed in Roll Call Monday calling the bill "essential" and federal controls of greenhouse gas emissions "inevitable."

Boucher wrote that he remained concerned about certain details of the bill, including the percentage of greenhouse gas reductions required by 2020. "Despite these reservations, and my intention to seek additional modifications, I believe that the time to pass a cap-and-trade program of greenhouse gas controls has arrived," he wrote.

Pelosi's office announced Monday night that a potential agreement with Peterson was in place, and on Tuesday Democrats worked to solidify an accord with the Waxman-Markey bill's greatest intraparty opponent.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday morning that he and others in leadership were confident they would reach agreement with Peterson, which they did and announced as votes came to a close last night. "We really do want to have a bill that at least has consensus on our side, and hopefully some Republicans will join us," Hoyer said during his weekly off-camera briefing with reporters.

As word leaked last night that a deal had been reached, Republicans continued to push back on any compromises made to pacify Democrats who had reservations about the bill's economic consequences.

"The backroom deal struck tonight by Chairman Peterson will not protect rural America from Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. "Though he eked out a few trivial concessions, the core of this legislation remains the same: a job-killing tax increase that will hit every single American, especially middle class families in the heartland of America."

What You Need To Know About the Climate and Energy Bill

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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