Pelosi courts both sides to thaw frozen climate bill

A flurry of meetings in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office has led to a near-deal on the climate change bill, perhaps paving the way for the bill to be brought to the floor by the July 4 recess.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is close to an agreement with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who at the beginning of the week was warning of a rural Democrat “revolt” over the legislation if not changed.

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Neither Waxman nor Peterson would comment on the status of specific sticking points — including the regional distribution of electricity allowances. But both men said significant progress had been made throughout the day.

Waxman, Peterson, and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) were walking together and laughing on their way back and forth from the House floor to the Speaker’s auxiliary office.

“We’ve resolved some of these issues,” Peterson said. “We’re close to having a legislative solution.”

“I’m feeling very optimistic,” Waxman said.

That meeting was preceded by another that the Speaker hosted — between Waxman, Markey  and 11 moderate Republicans that Democrats are looking to for support of the climate bill.

Aides to Pelosi described a productive meeting that proved that even across the aisle, many of the issues needing to be ironed out are regional as opposed to partisan.

A number of Republicans spoke about their concerns that non-urban regions of the country could be adversely affected by the bill — an argument that Peterson and rural Democrats have been making for weeks.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), the only Republican to support the legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee, described the concerns of those Republicans as being about “Jobs. Jobs, jobs jobs, and the cost to their constituents.”

“I don’t think anyone’s a hard ‘no,’” Bono Mack said.

Asked if Democrats conveyed their need for Republican support, Bono Mack said, “It’s my sense that they want the flagship title of 'bipartisan' on the bill.”

Waxman said Democrats would of course like Republicans on board, but would not say if GOP votes were needed.

But he also made it clear that even if an agreement with Peterson is reached, Democrats will still have a tough battle for votes within their own caucus.

“We’d have to pin people down and go through a formal whip count,” Waxman said.