Round 1 of Waxman Markey Goes to the Bad Guys (yet there is still hope!)

by William Yeatman on June 24, 2009

Yesterday, I announced “It’s on!,” in reference to the upcoming battle on the floor of the House of Representatives over a humongous energy tax co-written by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Security and Global Warming. The bill they wrote, the Clean Energy and Security Act, ┬áis a Frankenstein-like patchwork of anti-energy and energy rationing measures designed to make energy more expensive and less reliable, which is why Waxman had a heck of a time getting the bill out of his own Committee last month. In fact, he had to buy off moderate Committee members from his own party, one by one, with the hundreds of billions of dollars that the federal government would tax American energy consumers over the life of the legislation.

Moving it out of his own Committee was a slow process, and earlier this week, few observers thought that Waxman had the time to buy off all the moderate members of the majority party caucus before the July 4th vacation. But two nights ago, House leadership took the procedural steps to put the energy tax before the full House for vote by Friday.

As of yesterday afternoon, the bill’s passage still seemed uncertain, because almost all Republicans were lined up against it, and a band of moderate and rural Democrats, perhaps as many as 45, had expressed a variety of misgivings and were negotiating with Waxman through Rep Colin Peterson (D-Minnesota), the powerful Chairman of the House Ag Committee. Waxman and the House leadership need 218 votes to pass the anti-energy bill, so it was far from certain that they had the numbers.

That changed last night, when Waxman and Peterson reached a deal, according to E&E News (Subscription required). It wasn’t a very even transaction: Waxman caved, and Peterson won everything he wanted. The terms of the deal are wonkinsh but the take-home points are simple-farmers get regulatory support for ethanol (which raises our food bills and increases the price of our gas), farmers will get paid to grow nothing (because doing nothing has low carbon footprint), and Waxman gets the votes for his bill (which will raise the price of everything made from energy, which is everything).

After round 1, our side (i.e., supporters of affordable energy and opponents of energy rationing) is wobbly. YET THERE IS STILL HOPE! For moderates in the majority party, this bill is a career-killer. Just because Waxman has bought the agribusiness special interests, doesn’t mean there isn’t within the majority party a silent minority that is terrified of the electoral consequences of voting for a bill that hurts all American consumers and all American businesses.

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