This was a vote on the rule setting the terms for debate of a major energy bill that included, among other things, a “cap-and-trade” plan designed to reduce ??greenhouse gas emissions: Under cap-and-trade, an enforceable and declining limit, or cap is established on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that a company is allowed to emit, until the overall reduction goal is met. Companies emitting higher pollution levels than the law would allow are permitted to buy, or trade, pollution “credits” from entities that emit much lower pollution levels. The rule restricted the number of amendments that could be offered to the bill.
Rep. Matsui (D-CA), who was leading the support for the rule, described H.R 2454 as “an achievement for the American people”. Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) said that the rule and the bill are “for the courageous and the willing who want to see a new vision. I am well aware of the hard task that our friends on the Rules Committee had, so I am voting for the rule, and I come from the energy capital of the world.” Rep. Schiff (D-CA) said he hoped the Members “can support . . . this rule, this bill and fulfill the promise that we have given to our constituents, that we will serve this country not only today and during this Congress, but for the long haul, that we will make not only the easy decisions, but the hard ones.”
Rep. Sessions (R-TX), who was leading the Republican opposition to the rule, referring to its limitations on the number of amendments it permitted to be offered to H.R. 2454 as a “lockdown rule.” Sessions charged that: (A)fter limited committee hearings and only one markup on this 1,200-plus page bill, the negotiations that have brought this bill to the floor have completely excluded Republicans and ignored our good ideas on how to stop the most economically devastating and job-killing parts of this bill. For example, during the bill's brief deliberation in committee, Republicans offered three commonsense amendments . . . unfortunately, the committee's Democrats defeated them all.”
Sessions also claimed that “for the past 2 weeks, despite numerous contrary promises to our Democrat colleagues and to the American people, Speaker Pelosi and her handpicked lieutenants on the Rules Committee have limited open debate . . . . to talk about this unprecedented bill that is before the American people.” He characterized these actions as “simply unacceptable when it comes to legislation of such great importance to the future of American jobs and families.” Sessions further argued that “we owe it to the American people to allow Members of this body on both sides, who have good ideas to be heard . . . .” Sessions also opposed bringing the bill up at the time because it had very recently been revised and he said Members did not have had time to review and understand it.
Rep. Barton (R-TX) opposed the rule because he said the 3 1/2 hours of debate it permitted was insufficient for what Barton called “the most important economic bill before this House in the last 100 years . . . .” He also claimed “there is a provision in this revised bill on derivatives that the chairman of the Agriculture Committee and the chairman of the Financial Services Committee have already said needs to be repealed.” Barton further argued that “200 amendments were presented to the Rules Committee last night. One was made in order . . . .”
The rule setting the terms for debate of the major energy bill passed by a vote of 217-205. All 217 “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Thirty other Democrats jointed with one hundred and seventy-five Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin debating on a major energy bill containing the “cap-and-trade” plan.