Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday corralled 11 moderate Republicans into a meeting with Democratic drafters of climate change legislation in an effort to win their support for the bill.
Pelosi, along with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), met with the GOP Members for close to an hour.
Republicans in the meeting included Reps. Timothy Johnson (Ill.), Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Mike Castle (Del.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Peter King (N.Y.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.) and Tom Petri (Wis.).
The group of Republicans has been part of an outreach effort on energy issues led by former Rep. Sherry Boehlert (R-N.Y.), according to an aide present in the meeting.
Thursday’s session was the first of what Pelosi hopes will be a series with the Republican group to bring them on board with the bill.
During the meeting, Pelosi thanked the GOP Members for being willing to come to the table and, in particular, praised Bono Mack for circulating a letter outlining concerns that moderate Republicans have with the bill, the aide said. Pelosi also noted Bono Mack’s “courageous— vote in favor of the Waxman-Markey legislation in committee.
Waxman and Markey outlined the coalition backing the bill and emphasized that it was written to protect vulnerable industries, said the aide. Bono Mack said differing opinions on the bill are regional, not partisan; Kirk noted his concerns with coal.
Republicans exiting the meeting were largely tight-lipped. Some seemed optimistic that middle ground can be found, although they acknowledged that there is much more work to be done.
“I think the Speaker is to be commended. She’s reaching out to people on both sides, and the dialogue goes on,— Johnson said. He does not support the current bill, however, citing “major, major concerns— with provisions relating to agriculture and costs.
“I don’t want anybody to leave this with the perception that I have committed to vote for it because I certainly haven’t,— Johnson said.
Bono Mack said she would vote for the bill as it stands now, but said Democrats need to get more serious about pushing nuclear energy in it, particularly in the context of job creation.
“I don’t know that we saw any signs of movement— on that front, Bono Mack said. “I think that Chairman Markey was clearly trying to again say that we’ve considered this and we help nuclear, but to me it’s a little bit of a hollow argument— if it doesn’t specifically plan for nuclear power plant construction.
Kirk said he wants to add an energy production title that would include nuclear provisions, offshore drilling and a natural gas pipeline for the Midwest.
And asked if he thought Democrats simply wanted their votes or if they needed them to pass a bill, Kirk said: “Generally, they talk to us when they need us.—
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.