Democratic Congressmen Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts will unveil a bill on climate change as early as today. Waxman and Markey say the bill will create jobs, help end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and combat global warming. But the bill is facing stiff resistance from Republicans and even some key Democrats. The Takeaway talks about the bill and the political strategy involved with Washington Correspondent, Todd Zwillich.
John Hockenberry, The Takeaway: This is The Takeaway. I’m John Hockenberry. We cover Washington a lot on this program and if you want to follow what’s going on in Washington, you couldn’t do better than to signup for Todd Zwillich’s Twitter feed. You can find it at thetakeaway.org (or click here). Todd joins us now because we may get our first look at the first serious legislative attempt to deal with climate change. Today, the Congressman Henry Waxman of California and Ed Marky of Massachusetts, both Democrats, may unveil their bill to deal with climate change. Complicated piece of legislation and Todd, the knives are out?
Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway Washington Correspondent: Yes they are John. You’ve heard of cap and trade?
John Hockenberry: Oh ya
Todd Zwillich: Well listen to this:
Joe Barten [on-tape]: Cap and trade is dead. It’s dead. It’s just, they gotta get the coroner to conduct the autopsy and make it official. They are dreaming if they think they’re going to get a cap and trade bill through the Congress and on the President’s desk. I don’t think they can get it out of committee.
John Hockenberry: Sounds like they don’t even need the coroner. Who’s speaking there?
Todd Zwillich: Texas Republican Joe Barten, Senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce committee. Now, Henry Waxen is Chairman of that committee and that’s the committee that, starting on Monday, is going to be processing the big climate change cap and trade bill. It has lots of aspects, but Henry Waxen has had to make a lot of concessions. Not to Republicans, they’re uniformly opposed. You heard Joe Barten there. His position is clear and he’s got all his Republicans with him. They’ve made a lot of concessions to get Democrats on board. They’ve already watered it down a little bit, watered it down from the perspective of the environmental community anyway, but it certainly hasn’t gone far enough for the likes of Joe Barten.
John Hockenberry: Let’s help people on the cap and trade. That of course is the carbon market, the paying for the emissions of carbon to create a market that’s going to penalize people for using carbon, and create a set of incentives for people to use less carbon, emit less carbon. The Republicans have cast this as an energy tax, right?
Todd Zwillich: They’ve cast this as an energy tax and it’s an economic war on the Midwest. And that was trying to target Midwestern Democrats from industrial states: places that make steel, places that make cars, places that dig coal, because all of these industries will be affected when the price of carbon goes up. So lots of concessions have been made. Industries that are so-called “trade sensitive”, that might lose market share to foreign competitors when their prices go up, they’re getting giveaways in this bill. So when carbon is capped and then traded, the trade generates revenue. And the big debate in Congress right now is where does the money go? Does it go to rate payers, people like you and me when our electric bills go up? Does it go to utilities? Does it go to industry? Well, industry gets 15% of the money, the autos get some of the money, refineries are going to get some of the money, us rate payers get some of the money on our electric bills, but that’s to satisfy those Midwestern sometimes moderate, sometimes conservative Democrats. They’re slowly starting to come on board, but for every percentage point that you give them you’ve got the Liberal Democrats, who represent a lot of low-income folks. They’re getting upset because they thought that more of the percentage was going into the pockets of low-income people, not only to pay their electric bills, but to pay the increasing costs of fertilizer, food, everything else that’s likely to go up a little bit or maybe even more than a little bit once this bill is made active.
John Hockenberry: Well Todd, it sounds like the Democrats are running scared on this sort of tax idea and that’s what some of these amendments and changes are about. Is this the death by a thousand cuts? Is there a long way to go from today?
Todd Zwillich: There’s a long way to go. Republicans are promising hundreds, literally, hundreds of amendments next week. They’re promising deleterious tactics. They may make the clerks read this bill, 600 pages long. They’re going to try to kill cap and trade. They’re going to try and make it very, very, very difficult even to get out of the gates here.