After weeks of uncertainty and months of hearings and debate, Democratic leaders in the House look poised to vote today
on the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES). Establishing a
cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions will be no easy task and
After weeks of uncertainty and months of hearings and debate, Democratic leaders in the House look poised to vote today on the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES). Establishing a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions will be no easy task and Democratic whips are scrambling to find as many votes from both parties as possible.
A big breakthrough came on Tuesday night, when House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman reached a deal with House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson to put the Agriculture Department in charge of running an offset program for farmers. That means, unfortunately for the planet, that the credits farmers now receive for the tilling and conservation practices that keep carbon dioxide stored in the soil will no longer be overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, whose standards would be more stringent. It's also a poor deal for farmers, as climate change could lead to increases in heat waves, floods, droughts, insects, and weeds, making it more challenging to manage crops, livestock, and forests. But in the short-term, farmers will save a bit of cash, and that should be enough to convince Democrats from farm-heavy districts to support the bill.
So where does the Illinois congressional delegation stand? Dead set against the bill are Republicans Peter Roskam, Don Manzullo, and John Shimkus, as well as Democrat Jerry Costello. Also probable nay votes: Aaron Schock and Tim Johnson, who told the News-Gazette that he had "real concerns about how this [the ACES bill] will affect the middle class, and farmers in particular," are probably no's as well. The following Democrats, meanwhile, have been on board all along: Jan Schakowsky, Jesse Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush, Mike Quigley, Phil Hare, and Danny Davis.
Democratic Reps. Melissa Bean and Debbie Halvorson were initially viewed as swing votes, but have since come out in support of the bill. Barring an unforeseen amendment, Bean recently informed the Northwest Herald that she's ready to vote for it. And Halvorson, after receiving a personal call from President Obama yesterday, told the Los Angeles Times, "I think it's something that I'm going to support." We hear from sources in Washington that another suburban Democrat, Bill Foster, is leaning against the package, a perplexing position coming from a lifelong scientist who clearly understands the dangers of global warming. While originally thought to be on board, Rep. Luis Gutierrez has apparently been playing coy this week, perhaps to gain leverage in the concurrent negotations on immigration reform. Finally, while advocates are hopeful that Rep. Dan Lipinski will cast a yea vote, he could be a wild card. Last month, he introduced what he considered an "alternative" to the cap-and-trade proposals being considered in Congress. The plan, seen by many as an politically unfeasible, amounted to a carbon tax that will gradually increase over time, offset by a reduction in payroll taxes.
That leaves two big swing votes: GOP Reps. Mark Kirk and Judy Biggert. Kirk, who environmental groups have been targeting as a potential crossover vote, met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the bill on Wednesday and then with the president’s energy and climate change point person, Carol Browner, yesterday. Following the first meeting, Kirk told Politico that he remains on the fence because he's concerned that there is a lack of funding for nuclear energy and coal interests in his state. That's a strange contention, as coal utilities and “clean coal” projects all got huge handouts after negotiations in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is packed with legislators from carbon-heavy states. At this point no one seems to know what he plans to do.
In a statement this week, Biggert echoed the claim advanced by Shimkus, Roskam, and GOP party leaders that the bill in its current form "will kill jobs and increase the burden on taxpayers by thousands of dollars per year." Hopefully she has since read the Congressional Budget Office report estimating that "the net annual economywide cost of a cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or about $175 per household." That's equal to one postage stamp per day.
In a video from the Capitol, Sierra Club Illinois director Jack Darin says "this vote looks incredibly close" and will probably take place either tonight or tomorrow morning. When the roll call is announced, we'll have an update with the IL delegation breakdown.
UPDATE: A commenter notes the following tweet from Biggert. Looks like she's a nay vote:
Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Tony Bracjun.