Watching How Hopenchange is Made

The New York Times reports that House Democratic leaders released late Monday night a revamped 1,201-page Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” energy bill and plan to move it to the floor on Friday.  The bill has grown from the 946-page version adopted in the Energy and Commerce Committee — and “Sponsors expect to draft a manager’s amendment later this week that reflects additional deals reached among lawmakers.”

Democrats are still not done wheeling and dealing as they gear up for a floor debate, with critical issues still unresolved on everything from biofuels to which federal agency — U.S. EPA or the Agriculture Department — will have lead oversight of the offset program that would pay for environmentally friendly land management practices.

Paul Blumenthal, writing on the blog of the Sunlight Foundation, describes how the bill is suddenly 255 pages longer than the one reported out of committee — and is getting longer.  The bill was introduced on May 15, reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee with amendments on June 5, discharged by two other committees the same day, discharged by six other committees on June 19, and “now we are expecting a Friday vote on a bill that has had no public hearing in a committee with jurisdiction over it and that is not yet available in the main engine of public disclosure, THOMAS.”

And that isn’t even the worst part. This, apparently, isn’t even the final bill. The final bill will be a manager’s amendment that will be drafted later this week! From a posting on the House Rules Committee, we know that the deadline to submit amendments is Thursday at 9:30am. And there is talk that this will be voted on Friday. Thus, the final version of this bill will likely only be available for less than 24 hours.

It seems clear that, if the public knew what is in this bill, and how much it may cost them, they would concur with this analysis:  it is a “disaster.”  But the Democrats plan to ram it through without hearings or even public availability of the relevant text.  The same legislative process that brought us trillion-dollar stimulus spending and trillion-dollar deficit budgets is about to replicate itself yet again.

Why so fast?  Aside from the obvious reasons, there is a need to make room for the next bill to be railroaded through on a fast track by a one-party Congress.  The Times notes that:

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) . . . wants to see the House adopt the climate bill before the start of the Fourth of July recess so that he can turn his full attention after the break to President Obama’s health care reform plans.