On Friday evening, 211 House Democrats and 8 Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 2454, the American Climate and Energy Security Act. The bill passed 219-212. The text of the bill is here. The tally of ayes and nays and analysis of the members who broke ranks one way or the other is here.
For those readers who enjoy the back story on lobbying, arm-twisting, and the bump-and-grind of lawmaking, here and here are some entertaining pieces, including this off-color comment from the House Republican’s leader.
Nearly every news story on the vote recited essentially the same phrase, almost as if it were a Government-mandated civics lesson disclosure: “The bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.”
For the most optimistic view of the Senate’s plans for the House bill, here’s what Majority Leader Reid said late Friday:
“The House has taken a courageous step toward a safer and cleaner energy future that will create good jobs, reduce pollution and decrease our dependence on foreign and unsustainable sources of energy. The bill is not perfect, but it is a good product for the Senate and our Committees to start considering and begins the nation's inevitable movement to clean and abundant renewable energy and away from harmful and inefficient use of fossil fuels. Working with the President and his team, I am hopeful that the Senate will be able to debate and pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall.”
The President and Majority Leader Reid may have public opinion on their side, as reported this week, but proponents of the ACES bill have their work cut out for themselves in the Senate. A small taste of the the debate to come was offered last week by a set of Senate Republicans from the Rocky Mountain west, who offered their own energy plan. The legislation is designed to serve as an alternative to the House ACES bill and the ACELA legislation recently approved by the Senate Energy Committee. The Clean, Affordable, Reliable Energy Act (no bill number yet), announced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and six other Republican members of the recently formed Senate Western Caucus, would promote the recycling of spent nuclear fuel and provide incentives for the development of nuclear power, according to a legislative summary. According to this CongressDaily report:
“The group will include all western state Republicans and will focus on energy issues, encouraging minimal federal interference in production. America's ‘growth over the last century is tied to our ability to get energy,’ [Sen. Robert] Bennett said. ‘It's time for us to recognize the tremendous treasure trove that the West represents.’ Under the [proposal], U.S. energy development would target the Outer Continental Shelf, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and oil shale deposits. Revenues from such production would establish a Renewable and Alternative Energy Trust Fund, which would promote development of renewable and alternative energies. Tax incentives would be provided for alternative fuel and plug-in vehicles, as well as energy efficient homes and buildings.”
And another group of Senate Republicans held an event last week to promote nuclear power development as an alternative to the ACES and ACELA legislation. As described in this BNA story (subscription required):
Senate Republicans sought June 22 to promote nuclear power as an alternative to the emissions cap-and-trade program under negotiation in the House.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at the hearing held by the Senate Republican Conference that nuclear power produces carbon-free electricity and would not impose the costs on the economy and American families that he said an emissions cap-and-trade system would.
Alexander on May 22 called for the construction of 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years to give the nation time to develop more renewable energy. This would nearly double the number of U.S. plants, with 104 nuclear facilities currently in operation. Nuclear energy provides about 20 percent of the nation's electricity, but no new nuclear plants have been built since the 1970s.
Alexander said building 100 nuclear power plants would cost the taxpayers nothing but would require the federal government to offer loan guarantees to ensure the plants do not default on loans made to finance their construction and operation.
He also told reporters that the federal government would have to insure them against accidents. 118 DER A-25
In case anyone thought the White House may have missed this week’s civics lesson about the difference between the House and Senate, be disabused. The President used his weekly address to the Nation to praise the House of Representatives and to call on the Senate to move climate legislation forward. In terms we’re likely to hear again, he said: " Now my call to every Senator, as well as to every American, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past. Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth. It’s just not true.” The transcript is here. And the President gave a meaty interview Sunday afternoon where he strongly defended the House-passed bill, and again called for prompt Senate action. Playing on the theme of past versus future, he chided Senate Republicans for comparing the ACES bill to the 1993 BTU tax proposal, saying the Republican comparison "tells me those guys are 16 years behind the times" and that "they are fighting not even the last war; they're fighting three wars ago." He said "for all the fear mongering there's a recognition that the status quo is unsustainable."