06/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rangel Wants Health Care Before Climate Change

Don't even think about climate change before health care, Charlie Rangel said Wednesday night.

Long on the periphery of the climate-change debate, Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that his House Ways and Means Committee will make health care its top priority in the coming months and has no intention of turning to climate change in the meantime.

Rangel is positioning himself for post-Memorial Day negotiations with Henry Waxman, whose Energy and Commerce Committee has been working long hours -- including a possible all-nighter into Thursday -- to pass a climate-change bill out of committee and into Rangel's hands.

"Planting trees is one thing, giving out money is another," Rangel said. "It's not a question of Waxman. ... If you're dealing with money, you can't bypass my committee. Nobody challenges that."

Waxman (D-Calif.) was quick to rule out any chance of seeing the bill put to the full House before July, and declined to comment on a full vote before the Congressional recess in August. But he remained upbeat Wednesday night, and conceded that Ways and Means has jurisdiction over several key elements of climate-change legislation, such as offsets for increased gas prices.

"We need them to be involved," Waxman said of Ways and Means. "But I think we've got a formidable coalition behind our legislation and I think they will see the wisdom of some of our decisions, and then we're going to talk through where we have differences and try and resolve them."

While the current climate-change bill is based on a cap-and-trade system, Rangel said a carbon-tax system is still on the table.

For the moment, though, Waxman said he will continue to focus on an end to debate within his own committee, as he expects Energy and Commerce will also be pressed for time this summer.

"We have to do health care in our committee," Waxman said. "We want to do the FDA food safety bill in our committee in June. John Dingell asked me the other day, 'Do you think we have enough time to do health care and FDA in June when we get back?' and I said, 'No, but we're going to do it anyway.'"

Reporting contributed by Ryan Grim.