Peterson: Democrats at Impasse Over Climate Change

Posted June 10, 2009 at 1:58pm

House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) on Wednesday said Democrats have reached an impasse on climate change legislation and cast doubts on his committee passing the bill by next week.

“I think it’s very doubtful that we can get anything done by then,— Peterson said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) set a June 19 deadline for committee action on the climate change bill. The nine committees with jurisdiction must either mark up the bill by then or cede jurisdiction.

Peterson said Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told him this morning that staff-level discussions are “at a loggerhead— and that the two chairmen need to meet personally to hash out their differences in the coming days.

“He kind of implicated that when the staff was at an impasse, we would do that. I’m available,— Peterson said.

The Minnesota Democrat declined to go into specifics on what was holding up the bill, although he said his biggest concern is mixing climate change with energy independence.

“They’re going to make some case that growing corn is causing the Indonesians to cut down the rain forests. Therefore we should quit growing corn. That’s where we’re headed,— he said.

Until he and Waxman reach an agreement, Peterson said he didn’t know whether he would waive jurisdiction on the bill or ask leadership for more time on it. “We’re not going to proceed at all unless we get some of this stuff worked out,— he said.

Peterson has made it no secret that he opposes cap-and-trade provisions. He previously estimated that 45 Democrats would side with him in opposing the bill over those provisions if an agreement wasn’t reached. Today, he said that number has likely grown.

“The more people look at this, the more problems they’ve got. My list has grown since I’ve been looking at it,— Peterson said.

The Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing Thursday to review climate change legislation; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is among those slated to testify.

Peterson said he and Vilsack “personally agree on a lot of things— when it comes to cap-and-trade, but the question is “whether he’s going to be able to take that position with the administration.—

For his part, Waxman said there are “very constructive— discussions taking place and that he still plans to bring the bill to the floor before the July Fourth recess. He said he didn’t think it was tantamount to a committee waiving its jurisdiction if it doesn’t hold a markup on the bill.

“I think you would have amendments on the floor to reflect they’re exercising jurisdiction and their policy input,— Waxman said.