House passes major climate bill

In a triumph for President Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation Friday that calls for the nation's first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.

The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, both voted against H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Costello, who voted against his fellow Democrats, said in a Friday news release that he voted no because "it is the wrong bill at the wrong time."

"...It does not do enough to bridge the transition to clean energy sources, to prevent spikes in electricity costs, to protect workers from new layoffs, or to provide a global solution to climate change," Costello stated.

Shimkus said on the House floor that "this bill is a disaster... rural America is opposed to this bill."

"This bill will have the most wide-ranging effect on our nation of any legislation since I have been in Congress," Shimkus stated in a Friday news release. "It is an outright tax that will cost residents of Illinois money and their jobs."

The House's action fulfilled Speaker Nancy Pelosi's vow to clear major energy legislation before July 4, and sent the measure to a highly uncertain fate in the Senate.

On the House floor, Democrats hailed the legislation as historic, while Republicans said it would damage the economy without solving the nation's energy woes.

It is "the most important energy and environmental legislation in the history of our country," said Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. "It sets a new course for our country, one that steers us away from foreign oil and towards a path of clean American energy."

But Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a "defining bill." He called it a "bureaucratic nightmare" that would cost jobs, depress real estate prices and put the government into parts of the economy where it now has no role.

The legislation would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by mid-century. That was slightly more aggressive than Obama originally wanted, 14 percent by 2020 and the same 80 percent by mid-century.