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US: US House passes historic climate change bill

27 Jun 2009 9:49 AM

WASHINGTON, June 26 AP - In a triumph for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed sweeping legislation on Friday that establishes the United States' first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.

The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats.

Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.

The House's action fulfilled Speaker Nancy Pelosi's vow to clear major energy legislation before July 4 and sent the measure to a highly uncertain fate in the Senate.

Obama lobbied recalcitrant Democrats by phone from the White House as the debate unfolded across several hours, and Al Gore posted a statement on his web site saying the measure represents "an essential first step toward solving the climate crisis".

The former vice president shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work drawing attention to the destructive potential of global warming.

On the House floor, Democrats hailed the legislation as historic, while Republicans said it would damage the economy without solving the nation's energy problems.

It is "the most important energy and environmental legislation in the history of our country," said Democratic Representative Ed Markey.

"It sets a new course for our country, one that steers us away from foreign oil and toward a path of clean American energy."

But Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader, used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a "defining bill".

He called it a "bureaucratic nightmare" that would cost jobs, depress real estate prices and put the government into parts of the economy where it now has no role.

The legislation would require a 17 per cent reduction by 2020 in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the United States from 2005 levels and by about 80 per cent by mid-century. That was slightly more aggressive than Obama originally wanted, 14 per cent by 2020 and the same 80 per cent by mid-century.