Waxman: I'll use a conference committee to get cap-and-trade

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) just handed the Senate Republicans a great excuse to filibuster any energy bills Harry Reid wants to advance in 2010.  Waxman tells The Hill that any energy bill from the Senate, regardless of whether it has a cap-and-trade component for any industry in it, will allow him to attach his version of cap-and-trade in conference committee:

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he would “absolutely” seek to keep greenhouse gas limits alive in a House-Senate conference if the Senate approves energy legislation this summer that omits carbon provisions.

“It would be open in conference to consider because our bill has it,” Waxman told The Hill Wednesday.

Waxman authored a sweeping climate and energy bill that the House narrowly approved last year that merges an “economy-wide” cap-and-trade system with other provisions to boost alternative energy and energy efficiency.

Greenhouse gas caps face large hurdles in the Senate, and may be left on the cutting-room floor when the Senate debates an energy package that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to bring up next month.

Well, Waxman may certainly try to get the House version of cap-and-trade inserted in the conference report, but that won’t help move it in the Senate.  A conference report is subject to a cloture vote, just as the Senate version authored by John Kerry and Barbara Boxer is.  If Kerry and Boxer can’t move their somewhat less egregious version now, a conference report with Waxman’s version would be dead on arrival in the Senate.  Democrats like Russ Feingold have already objected to the strange allocation of carbon credits that favor California and Massachusetts, not coincidentally the two states represented by the authors of both versions of the bill.

However, that may be Waxman’s point.  He may want to derail any energy package that doesn’t include cap-and-trade, because once such a bill gets passed, it makes it more difficult to get back to C&T.  With the oil spill ongoing in the Gulf, there is some political pressure to do something about America’s direction on energy. Without that component, Congress might not address energy for another few years, and C&T isn’t popular enough to stand on its own.

That’s precisely why Republicans need to remain vigilant regarding energy policy.  Any deal conducted in the Senate between the GOP and Reid will get undone in conference.  Waxman’s practically putting  that on a billboard in Washington, and Republican leadership had better pay attention.