WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to slash carbon dioxide pollution blamed for global warming is gaining support in the U.S. House of Representatives, where a vote is possible this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.
“We are making progress,” Pelosi told reporters when asked whether previously undecided Democrats were beginning to line up behind the climate change bill. “We intend to bring it up” this week, she added.
Before a debate by the full House can go forward, the House Rules Committee must sign off on the bill. It was working late on Thursday deciding which amendments would be allowed and other rules governing the possible floor debate.
President Barack Obama, hoping to prod wavering House Democrats, urged passage of the bill, saying it would create millions of jobs and “open the door to a new energy economy.”
House Democratic leaders have said they hope to schedule the vote on Friday on the “cap and trade” bill that would reduce carbon emissions from utilities, manufacturers and others by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.
The United States is the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter after China.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing 3 million businesses and organizations, said in a statement: “Fundamentally, the bill fails to ensure that an adequate amount of renewable or alternative energy sources are developed and deployed to compensate for the bill’s declining cap on fossil fuel emissions.”
The legislation, which would encourage the development of cleaner energy alternatives, also would establish a free-market trading system allowing companies to buy and sell carbon pollution permits.
Just one day before a possible House vote, Pelosi and fellow Democratic leaders were working to secure enough support for passage.
Asked whether the bill would pass, Pelosi said, “You never know until you take the vote.”
Most House Republicans are expected to vote against the bill, arguing it will raise energy prices and encourage more job transfers to foreign soil as companies try to skirt the requirements.
Democratic leaders may have been heartened by a new Washington Post/ABC poll that said three-quarters of Americans want the U.S. government to regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases, while a slim majority — 52 percent — support a cap and trade system. That is slightly less support for cap and trade than a similar poll taken nearly a year ago.
The poll was conducted June 18-21 with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Supporters also were heartened by negotiations this week that included new protections for farmers, a deal likely to bring some additional rural lawmakers on board.
Pelosi called on former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on global warming, to telephone undecided lawmakers and seek their support.
House Republican leader John Boehner told reporters, “I don’t think they have the votes yet.” Boehner called the legislation “a job-killing energy tax.”
If Pelosi decides there are not enough votes to pass the bill, she likely will wait until next month, following a weeklong July 4 recess, to try to pass the bill.
In the meantime, lobbying over the bill has ramped up. A coalition of environmental groups held a Capitol Hill rally on Wednesday to stir up support. Farm groups voiced opposition, even with the new protections crafted by Democrats.
Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Xavier Briand