House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held several meetings on Wednesday with Democrats and centrist Republicans to round up support for controversial legislation aimed at combating global warming.
Pelosi’s push comes as her lieutenants and the White House intensified their own efforts to convince skeptical lawmakers to back the bill before a scheduled floor vote on Friday that is expected to be very close.
She also met with freshmen at 9 a.m. to pitch the bill, and then with the 2006 class an hour later.
Throughout a series of procedural votes, Pelosi worked the floor aggressively, clutching a vote tally sheet, personally asking dozens of members where they stood. (Click here for a guide as to where members stand on cap-and-trade)
She was so intent on whipping that she started working on one member in the Speaker’s Lobby, which is just off the House floor, in front of a handful of reporters.
The Speaker also lingered in the chamber after a long series of votes, sitting down with Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson-LeeA guide to the committees: House House passes bill to roll back restrictions on unemployment drug testing Black Caucus Dems take to Senate to protest Sessions MORE (D-Texas), then Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa).
“I went to her. She didn’t come to me,” Boswell explained. He wanted to talk to her about complaints from some of his local utilities that the bill would hit his region harder than others, driving up rates in some parts of the country but not others.
“The Speaker’s pitch is that it will work, and that rate increases will be minimal and spread across the whole country,” Boswell said as he walked back to his office, where he intended to consult with staff and make his final decision on the bill. “I’m trying to convince myself of that.”
The White House is also heavily involved, with energy adviser Carol Browner setting up meetings with lawmakers. President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, lobbied freshman Democrats on the bill in a session at the White House. Many freshman Democrats come from conservative districts where voters are leery of more environmental regulation.
House Democrats on Wednesday claimed that their climate change bill is gaining momentum, but cautioned that it’s too early to declare victory.
A day after Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) announced his support for the bill after prolonged negotiations with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Democrats said they were seeing a number of previously undecided votes becoming yes votes.
Peterson spoke in favor of the legislation before the Democratic Caucus on Tuesday night, telling members that Waxman went a long way toward ensuring that agriculture and many regional issues had been adequately addressed.
“I think that’s going to go a long way toward getting a lot of those fence-sitters on the Ag committee to become yes votes,” said Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), one of the Democratic whips on the bill.
Peterson told reporters that while there might be a few holdouts, he anticipates that many of the 28 Democrats on his committee will support the bill.
But that agreement does not guarantee enough votes will be there.
A number of Democrats — including Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), a member of the Agriculture Committee and leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition — said they are hung up on the formula for doling out electricity allowances to various parts of the country.
Herseth Sandlin said before the biomass definition was agreed upon that she remains a “no” vote.
“I think the chances would improve with more time,” she said. “They say that if we wait, the opposition will solidify. But if we wait until after the break, we can have constituent meetings on these new provisions where we can explain them.”
For those reasons, Democrats are admitting they will be whipping until the eleventh hour on Friday.
“I don’t know that we’ll get 218 hard yeses ahead of time,” Doyle said. “But there’s a sense that once you put it on the floor, the votes will be there.”
To that end, Democrats were still looking for Republicans willing to cross the aisle beyond Rep. Mary Bono Back (Calif.), the lone Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee to support the bill. Bono Mack said she will vote for the legislation on the floor.
Democrats were also hoping that that the lingering concern over utility rates would be further mollified by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that projected the net annual cost of the cap-and-trade program at $175 per household — which Democrats trumpeted as roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.
“We’re still trying to determine what kind of impact this is going to have on our constituents,” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “But I think it’s heading toward working itself out.”
Doyle said the CBO report was “huge.”
“Now the biggest job we have is getting accurate information to the rank-and-file members,” he said.
The American Farm Bureau on Wednesday came out strongly against the bill, calling it “seriously flawed.”
Michael M. Gleeson and Molly K. Hooper contributed to this article.