If the House has the votes, why wait?

by Steven Biel

January 8, 2009

On Monday, Energy and Environment Daily reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes that the votes are there to pass a bill to cap global warming emissions, but that she wasn’t sure whether it would make it onto the calendar for 2009.

E&E is a subscription-only site, so I’ll quote the article at length here:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that she has enough votes to pass cap-and-trade legislation aimed at curbing the effects of global warming but would not commit to holding a vote in 2009.

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol, Pelosi said she has sufficient backing in the Democratic-controlled House to move a cap-and-trade bill, but will not force the issue. "I’m not sure this year, because I don’t know if we’ll be ready," Pelosi said. "We won’t go before we’re ready."

Pelosi acknowledged the December deadline looming over U.N. negotiations toward a new international climate change agreement. "We’re sensitive to Copenhagen and the rest of that," she said, referring to the Denmark capital that will host the next annual U.N. conference. "And it’s a very high priority for me."

But Pelosi said she could not guarantee that President-elect Barack Obama would be able to sign a cap-and-trade law before Copenhagen.

"I would certainly hope so, but I can’t tell you that that is the case right now," she said. "Of all the bills that we have done, you know I sort of know the policies, I know what the possibilities are, this is the most, should we say, controversial, not controversial, mysterious."

Pelosi added, "There’s so many ways we can go. We’re seeing, studying what the Europeans did. They had to have some trial and error in what they did. And I think we have to be very careful, because we have to do it right, with cap and trade. We have to do it right. I don’t think we can take any chances. So this is going to take some very thorough scrutiny as to how we go forward."

Speaker Pelosi has been a very powerful and effective champion for the environment. I truly believe her commitment to the issue is sincere. In the last Congress she stood up to some very powerful interests to push through the first increase in fuel economy standards in 30 years, among other accomplishments. And it’s often a mistake to read too much into a single quote to one reporter.

But I have to ask, on an issue as critical as global warming, given the truly existential threats to our health, economy, and national security, what could possibly be more urgent?

I can understand wanting to take time to think through the policy given the complexities of the issue. This is a global issue that touches every part of our lives.

But the studies have been done. The verdict is in. If Congress isn’t "ready," they need to get ready, and if that means staying up late and burning the midnight oil, well, it’s past time for that too.

Congress needs to act now. There’s no excuse for further delay. If the votes are there, the bill should be on the floor now.

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