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House Republicans Courted on Climate Change Bill

Date: 21-Jun-09
Country: US
Author: Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON - As Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives struggled to resolve disputes over a climate change bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday courted moderate Republicans she hopes may help pass the legislation.

"I get the feeling they would like our votes; they'd like the title of a bipartisan bill. That is very important to them," Republican Representative Mary Bono Mack told reporters after the meeting of 11 Republicans and House Democratic leaders.

Mack, who represents a California desert district with wind, solar and geothermal interests, was the only Republican to vote for the bill last month when it was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Many Republicans say the climate bill should help encourage nuclear power growth.

The legislation is aimed at reducing U.S. industry's emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 -- both from 2005 levels.

Scientists have linked those pollutants to rising Earth temperatures, harmful weather swings and melting ice caps, all of which threaten plants, animals and humans.

Pelosi is pushing for House passage of the climate change bill, possibly as early as next week, or else sometime in July. The bill also is a high priority of President Barack Obama.

Bipartisan backing for the legislation in the House could improve its prospects in the Senate later this year or next and boost U.S. standing at an international climate change conference Obama plans to attend in December in Copenhagen.

To reach that goal, Pelosi and other leading Democrats are negotiating with different groups of lawmakers who worry the bill could hurt their constituents.

Chief among them are farm-state lawmakers, who want protections for corn-based alternative fuels and additional help for rural electric utilities. The largest U.S. farm group, the American Farm Bureau Federation, has announced its opposition to the House Democrats' bill.

A centerpiece of the legislation is a "cap-and-trade" program that would increasingly limit carbon emissions over four decades, but also allow companies to sell the ever-diminishing pollution permits to each other on an as-needed basis.

Another Republican who attended Thursday's meeting with Pelosi was Representative Timothy Johnson, who said he and his Illinois constituents had "very, very major concerns" about the climate change bill. He told reporters he was listening to "both sides" of the debate.

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