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Pelosi Prodding Caucus on Climate

Watt, who does not serve on any of the committees that weighed in on the package, said he asked the question in jest. But it pointed to a genuine concern: “It’s a very complex piece of legislation, and I need to be able to understand it, and then I can start asking questions about it.”

Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) were still negotiating minor tweaks Wednesday in an attempt to win handfuls of additional votes, including language aiding small refineries and biomass.

“We’re into the dotting of I’s and crossing of T’s,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a key moderate who helped craft the bill and has become one of its most vocal backers. Doyle predicted that a handful of Republicans would also join them in the end.

A group of moderate Republicans also met late Wednesday with House Democratic leaders, after first being courted by Pelosi last week.

“There’s going to be some people who don’t want to be on the wrong side of history on this in the Republican Party as well,” Doyle said.

Markey, meanwhile, said the whipping efforts were aided, ironically, by numerous Republican protest votes bringing Members to the floor.

The White House was deploying its resources both on the Hill and around the country on behalf of the legislation, and that was also coming into play Wednesday.

“We are arm in arm with the White House,” Markey said.

“Everyone’s united behind this bill,” Waxman said. “We’re doing an all-out effort.”

Dozens of environmental organizations and industry groups backing the bill are making a huge push as well, both in Washington, D.C., and by generating calls into Congressional districts, organizers said.

Peterson said the Congressional Budget Office score showing the legislation would cost the average family $175 in 2020 also should help Members become more comfortable with the bill.

“The costs that are going to be generated here are going to be fairly small and considerably less than some people have been talking about,” he said, adding that some farmers will be able to make money off the carbon offsets.

Republicans and the American Petroleum Institute challenged the CBO’s numbers and charged that the bill would cost millions of jobs.

Democrats want to clear the decks for the far-reaching debate on health care reform next month.

And Peterson added that there is some urgency to pass the bill now so that Obama has something to take with him to the G-8 summit next month. “He wants something in hand to show those other people what we’re working on,” he said.

Peterson also noted that despite the tight deadline in the House, it is still early in the legislative process.

“This is not becoming law” yet, he said. “I can guarantee that this thing is going to be further refined in the Senate.”

Peterson also said that without the bill, he sees no way to prevent the EPA from moving ahead with onerous new regulations on ethanol production.

“That’s one of the reasons that I’m going along with this,” he said. “This is a huge deal to get it out of there, and I don’t think we’ll ever get it out any other way.”

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