House Committee Looks Set to Wrap Up Waxman-Markey Tonight

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm

After threatening 450 amendments and other delays, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee appear to be playing ball, and against all odds, it actually looks like the landmark Waxman-Markey energy and climate will be voted out of committee tonight.

Tuesday’s hearing, the first day at which amendments to the bill were presented, extended late into the night, but just six amendments were put to a vote, and Chairman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) goal of voting on the bill today appeared to be in serious danger. Yet just now, Ranking Member Joe Barton (D-Texas), who had pledged to wreak havoc on the proceedings, said that the Republicans were planning just ten more amendments. The committee now hopes to wrap things up by around 7 p.m. tonight.

What led to the Republican change of heart? Republicans may be disheartened by the fairly unified Democratic front thus far — the moderates they were hoping to pick off on some votes have largely toed the party line as Republican amendment after Republican amendment has been rejected. Or maybe they simply can’t bear the thought of another week of long hearings, when a sense of inevitability surrounding the bill’s passage (in the House, at least) has set in.

Last night, the Republicans forfeited another card they had up their sleeves by agreeing not to force a reading of the 946-page bill. But Barton didn’t want Douglas Wilder, the speed reader the Democrats hired as a precaution to go to waste.

“I may force the reading of a five-page amendment just to hear that young man read,” Barton said.

Waxman responded that he thought the Democratic leadership had let the reader go after the Republican pledge last night not to force a reading. But it was soon discovered that he was present, and Barton requested a reading of an amendment he had just introduced.

And so Wilder set to work, churning out the bureaucratic language atop the amendment at an impressive clip. After about 20 seconds of reading, Barton cut him off and withdrew his request for a reading. Wilder drew a big round of applause from everyone present.

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