Boucher and Markey both pointed to a recent Environmental Protection Agency announcement following a pivotal 2007 Supreme Court decision signaling that it would regulate carbon dioxide as spurring industry interest in getting something done.
Theres now an understanding that we have to act, Boucher said. The EPA is going to regulate it if we dont.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a subcommittee member with steel plants in his district, said there was a lot of fear, especially outside the Beltway, of a bill written by liberals like Markey and Waxman, but Members have been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to accept compromises.
I have to say that Ed Markey has bent over backwards to be sensitive to the concerns of people like myself, Doyle said. I cant say enough about him. That being said, theres a long way to go.
Although Markey and Waxman are pushing for Memorial Day to conclude committee action, its not clear what will happen next.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has hedged on whether the House would move forward first with the cap-and-trade/energy combination measure envisioned by Markey and Waxman or a narrower energy bill that would omit the more controversial cap-and-trade provisions.
And some Members, including Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.), would prefer a flat-out carbon tax instead.
Members also want a better sense of where the Senate will go before moving a bill on the House floor.
The House is getting a little tired of walking the plank only to have the Senate refuse to move, Doyle said. Why put something in a bill that has no chance of passing in the Senate?
Markey and Waxman also are reaching out to Republicans, intending to meet with them today to present their proposal and get input. But so far, they dont seem to be getting very far.
We dont want to cap our economy and trade away our jobs, said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who hails from coal country and sits on Markeys subcommittee.
Republican leaders are eyeing the issue with relish, portraying the idea as cap-and-tax that will destroy industries, ship jobs overseas, tax everyone who flips on a light switch and do little or nothing to slow global warming. GOP lawmakers saw the energy debate as a winning issue for them in 2008, and are looking to capitalize on it again this year.
And Republicans like Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton (Texas) argue that the idea Democrats would try to move cap-and-trade in the depths of a recession is politically insane.
Markey has no illusions that the path ahead will be easy, but he said hes convinced the goal is worthwhile and that he will ultimately be successful.
Its no longer something that can be bottled up like it was by the Bush administration, he said. And he said that no one should be surprised by the way he is going about building support for the bill.
Thats how Ive been operating my whole career, he said. Weve been doing this a long, long time.