With Congress expected to vote on a 1,201-page climate change bill on Friday, one of the country's largest unions is sending word to Democrats from conservative or blue-collar districts: They'll back them up for their vote.
The AFL-CIO sent a letter to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill on Thursday urging passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, otherwise known as Waxman-Markey. It is, an aide says, "the most comprehensive climate change - and jobs - bill that the AFL-CIO has supported." And with the outcome of the legislation still in doubt -- even as the hour of the vote approaches -- the hope is that it can provide a modicum of coverage for lawmakers on the fence.
"The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, though not perfect, represents an important first step toward achieving these goals, and we urge a yes vote," reads the letter from Bill Samuel, director of government affairs at the AFL-CIO. "The American Clean Energy and Security Act maintains a diverse energy portfolio that includes renewable energy, fossil fuels, and nuclear and hydro power, while spurring economic investment in new energy technologies that will create jobs for American workers. At the same time, the bill imposes an economy-wide carbon reduction program and seeks to minimize the burden on anyone sector."
The 11th-hour effort by the ALF-CIO and others illustrates just how close the debate and vote over the Waxman-Markey bill has become. On Thursday, the president made a direct appeal to lawmakers to support the legislation, which contains a controversial cap-and-trade component. It was about as far as Obama has gone in support of a bill since entering the White House.
That the labor community would support the bill was not entirely expected, though it's not entirely surprising either. The AFL-CIO's argument is that Waxman-Markey is a jobs bill, likely to put tens of thousands of people to work in green industries. The union even notes, in its letter to lawmakers, that it is hoping to improve the legislation by strengthening "its international competitiveness provisions."
In the process, however, ALF-CIO officials are hoping to recruit enough votes for the bill's passage. And their targets, an aide says, are Democrats from hard hit-industrial states who stand to benefit from a new, environmentally conscious economic focus.