Congressmen Say They Didn't Have Chance to Read Full 1,200-Page Climate Change Bill Before Vote

By Edwin Mora | June 27, 2009 | 1:52pm EDT

U.S. Capitol (Wikimedia photo)

On the Spot ( – Almost all of the House members surveyed Friday by had not read the entire 1,200-page climate-change bill before they were to cast their vote Friday evening. But almost all of them knew how they were going to vote.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) said that he supported the bill the House was considering (and subsequently approved Friday evening by a narrow 219-212 vote), but he had not read the whole bill.
You’d have to have hours and hours and hours to be able to do all that, but we’re well aware of the main items,” Rep. Abercrombie told
But the liberal member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus also said he was skeptical about “how it works out in practice.”
“Well, I think the overall goals of the bills need to be supported,” he added. “How it works out in practice, of course, is something else.” 

Abercrombie ended up being one of 211 Democrats who voted for the bill, which was approved 219 to 212 with 3 members not voting.
Abercrombie responded to a question posed to several members of the House: “Did you have the chance to read the final version of the climate-change legislation that came out yesterday?” followed by an inquiry on how they would vote for or against the bill.
Only one congressman, who responded to the question around 1 p.m. on Friday, said he had gone through the entire bill--but even he still needed to read an additional 300-page amendment to the bill, which had just been added, before voting.
“I’ve read the bill, but haven’t had the chance to read the manager’s amendment,” said Rep. John Boccieri, (D-Ohio). “That’s what I’m heading back to my office to do right now. It’s 300 pages.”
Boccieri indicated that his vote depended on the content of the 300 pages he was planning to read.
“Well, I’ll let you know (his vote) after I read the manager’s amendment,” said Boccieri. “I hope this bill is about creating jobs, protecting our national security, and moving away from our dependence on foreign oil.” 

In the end, Boccieri voted for the bill.
The 300-page amendment became an issue on the House floor Friday. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) took time to read parts of it to the House and comment on its provisions, complaining that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) had added it to the bill at 3:05 a.m. Friday morning.
“Don’t you think the American people expect us to understand what is in this bill before we vote on it?” Boehner asked on the floor Friday afternoon. Boehner voted against the bill.
Sentiment of support or opposition for the legislation, formally known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 254), was strong whether members of Congress had read the complete text or not.

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), a member of the House Ways and Mean Committee, said he had read the original bill that had been placed before Ways and Means--and would not vote for the final bill being voted on Friday--which was not the same as the one he had read.
Davis claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had “bullied” the House Ways and Means Committee into dropping the bill in order to keep it from failing.
“I was in six hearings in Ways and Means regarding climate change before the chairman was forced by Mrs. Pelosi to waive jurisdiction (from Ways and Means) because it would not have passed out of our committee, had it come in there,” Rep. Davis said.

Davis criticized those who supported the bill.

“Frankly, many of the folks (who) have taken a position strongly in favor of this bill refuse to look at the science of it--and frankly, the impact on our economy--when every effort to do this worldwide has failed,” Davis said.
“We’re simply going to place ourselves at a competitive disadvantage in the global economy,” he added.
The congressman said  that the bill would take a toll on the pockets of the working class, farmers, and seniors.
“The people who are going to get hurt by this bill are the working poor, the elderly, our farmers, those on fixed incomes,” Davis said.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) questioned whether most of his colleagues had read the American Clean Energy and Security Act, or whether they truly understood its main component “cap-and-trade”--which is a system that places a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in the United States, rations emissions among companies by giving them "allowances," and then allows the companies to sell their allowances to other companies.

“Well, I don’t think too many of us have read all of it. It’s a pretty big bill, as you know, but we call it the ‘Cap and Tax Bill,’” Franks told “It is a disaster of the first magnitude.”

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) admitted that he had not read the bill at around 1:30 p.m. Hoisting a copy of the legislation document, he asked, “This bill?”

“I haven’t read it yet, I’ve read summaries though,” he said.

Asked how he would vote, he replied, “Against.”

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