By Jared Allen
The House on Friday passed a monumental climate change bill, giving Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) one of the biggest victories of her Speakership and answering a call from President Obama to let the United States play a leading role in reducing greenhouse gasses.
The bill passed with 219 votes, just enough for passage. Forty-four Democrats voted against the bill and eight Republicans voted for it.
The legislation, authored primarily by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), went through a series of substantial changes - even at close to the last minute - in order win the support of enough Democrats.
It was the subject of a day-long debate on Capitol Hill. Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) even tried a filibuster-like tactic Friday evening, taking to the floor for over an hour to object to changes made to the measure at just after 3 a.m. on Friday.
Democrats had objected to Boehner's lengthy speech but House tradition allows leaders to speak beyond their allotted time.
Pelosi spoke after him in two-minute remarks that asked members to remember the 'jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs' the bill would bring.
Even after Waxman and Markey cut a major deal with Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who had objected to the bill on the grounds that agricultural interests were being ignored and rural states would be unfairly punished, dozens of Democrats remained uncertain they could sell their support for the bill back home.
Most of those Democrats feared that their constituents would feel the sting of increased utility rates as a result of the cap-and-trade provision of the legislation. Republicans seized on this fear, labeling the bill a “national energy tax” and attacking dozens of vulnerable Democrats even ahead of the vote.
Democrats pushed back hard against those claims and pushed even harder against their colleagues who stayed undecided throughout the week.
Through a number of calls from Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and former Vice President Gore, as well as face-to-face meetings with Pelosi, Waxman, Markey and a number of other Democrats and administration officials, Democrats feverishly whipped their undecided members throughout the night Thursday and on Friday morning.
By passing the bill on Friday, Pelosi also accomplished her secondary goal of clearing the legislation ahead of the July 4 recess. The move seemed designed to allow the House -- including Waxman -- to shift focus to healthcare legislation.
But Pelosi and Waxman's work is far from over. The Waxman-Markey bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Despite a push from Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to follow the House's lead, most of the Senate's climate change work has thus far been conducted by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
Bingaman's bill lacks a cap-and-trade provision, focuses more on increased domestic production, and generally goes in a wholly different direction than the Waxman-Markey bill.