Democratic mutiny over Waxman-Markey?

The Hill reports that the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill faces growing opposition on Capitol Hill — where it counts.  Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), chair of the Agriculture Committee, says that he has a list of 45 Democrats willing to vote against the bill over its ag policies alone.  Peterson says that the list is growing, not shrinking:

More and more Democrats are ready to vote against Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s climate change bill, according to a congressional committee chairman who opposes his leader.

The House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said Wednesday that he’s at an impasse with the lead sponsor of a climate change bill strongly backed by Pelosi (D-Calif.), and that his list of Democratic members who would join him in voting against the measure is growing rather than shrinking. …

Peterson has warned that the bill put together by Waxman and Energy and Environment subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) will fail if agriculture-related provisions aren’t altered, and he’s said he has as many as 45 votes on his side. That number of Democratic defections would certainly doom the prospects of passing the bill in the House.

And while the Agriculture chairman said he’s working to resolve those differences and not intentionally trying to torpedo the legislation, he noted that skepticism toward the bill is growing, not shrinking.

“I’m just estimating the number of votes that will be against this,” Peterson said. “I suspect that the list has grown as more members have gotten a chance to look at this. I mean, my list has grown.”

On this issue, the policy breaks across regional as well as partisan lines, which gives opponents a better shot at stopping it.  Republicans have mostly opposed the C&T system, with only a few exceptions in the House, and none explicitly thus far in the Senate.  However, that wouldn’t be enough to stop the bill in either chamber.  The key to opposing the bill is in the regional interests at play in Congress.

Peterson, a moderate, represents the agricultural areas of Minnesota, and the Midwestern faction in Congress of either party will not allow farmers to get shafted by a C&T system.  All such proposals call for restrictions on what have been highly successful farming strategies in favor of “green” initiatives that are more expensive and less efficient (which is why they’re not being used now).  Family farmers already live on thin margins for their businesses, which are usually heavily leveraged; they can’t afford to take losses for the sake of ecological fads.

The coal-producing states are another potential source of bipartisan opposition.  The C&T system proposed by Waxman and Markey (and Lieberman and Warner in the Senate) would radically restrict the coal industry in a short period of time.  Obama himself bragged that he would put coal-generating plants out of business during the campaign.  This would cause an explosion of unemployment and severe economic pain on top of what we are already experiencing in these states.  Elected officials from these states cannot blithely sign away the economic future of their constituents — not unless they want an early retirement.

Peterson’s list will continue to grow as the economic realities of C&T become apparent.  We need to make sure that they do.

Update: Jim Geraghty notes that the job losses would start immediately:

If climate-change legislation passes Congress in its current form, Lion Oil Co., an El Dorado refinery, will have to shutter operations within a year and lay off 1,200 workers, a company executive told a congressional panel Tuesday.

Passage of the bill “will make our survival impossible,” Steve Cousins, vice president of refining, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.