Tasked with co-writing a controversial climate change and energy overhaul, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) may have the heaviest lift of any subcommittee chairman in Congress.
The 18-term lawmaker took the reins of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment in the wake of Rep. Henry Waxmans (D-Calif.) coup deposing Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) atop the Energy and Commerce panel.
Together with Waxman, Markey is writing what would be the most sweeping energy legislation in history, releasing a 600-page draft Tuesday that includes a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions as its centerpiece.
The release marks the official kickoff of a lobbying frenzy from interests across the economic spectrum, with a final committee bill expected by Memorial Day.
For Markey, this years battle reminds him of the 1996 Telecommunications Act entrenched interests were wary of new government regulations but ultimately signed on.
If I took the initial reaction of the cable and telephone industries, without question no progress could have been made, Markey said in a recent interview.
Markey credits that act for setting the stage for the Internet boom and creating millions of jobs.
That unleashed a technology revolution that created approximately 3 million jobs in America ... eBay, YouTube and Amazon. I think the same thing is possible in the energy sector, Markey said.
Markey was tapped by a newly minted Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2007 to head a select committee on climate change, and he has kept up a brisk pace this year, holding 10 hearings on the subject in two months. Markey has long been close with the Speaker, and she entrusted him to begin laying the groundwork early on the issue.
Markey knows he needs to thread the needle between conservative Democrats from coal and oil regions with the partys more liberal wing, and appease a host of interests from steelworkers to coal miners to utilities to ratepayers to get the bill across the finish line.
Markey is trying to get industry to focus on the new green jobs and technologies the bill would foster.
The United States has an opportunity to create a new manufacturing sector before the Chinese and the Germans and the Indians. ... We won that race in telecom, so the vocabulary of the world is our vocabulary, Markey said. If we dont take this opportunity, we will surely regret it.
Markey acknowledges his lift is heavy, but has been working to smooth out opposition to avoid deal-breakers. From key industries, to even the GOP, Markey says hes leaving no stone unturned. And the man Markey replaced atop the subcommittee Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) could end up being his most valuable ally in getting a consensus, at least among Democrats.
Rick Boucher and I have sat next to each other for 26 years, Markey said. I actually believe there is a will on the part of most of those Members to get to yes.
Boucher, who wrote a 400-page draft last year with Dingell, said there is a momentum behind cap-and-trade from businesses like utilities and even some coal interests that want new rules of the road. The sooner the rules are clear, the sooner a tidal wave of new plants and equipment can be unleashed, Boucher said. That will help to lift us out of this recession.