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House passes energy overhaul bill 219-212

  • Story Highlights
  • Democratic leaders, Obama twist arms to get politically dicey bill passed
  • Bill would reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020
  • GOP says bill would drive polluting companies to less-regulated countries
  • Bill faces unclear future in Senate, where it has not been introduced
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A sharply divided House of Representatives narrowly passed a White House-backed climate change bill Friday after hours of cajoling and arm-twisting by Democratic leaders among members worried about the legislation's potential economic and political fallout.

The House of Representatives passes an energy bill that includes a "cap-and-trade" program on emissions.

The House of Representatives passes an energy bill that includes a "cap-and-trade" program on emissions.

The bill passed 219-212, with virtually no Republican support.

The bill would reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 through a so-called "cap-and-trade" program under which companies would buy and sell emissions credits.

Among other things, the bill would also require utilities to generate an increasing amount of power from renewable sources.

Even before daybreak Friday, consternation over the bill brewed anew.

The Democrats released a 301-page amendment to the bill at 3:09 a.m. Friday, drawing protest from Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"This is the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives. Right here. This bill," Boehner said.

The leaders of the House are customarily granted unlimited speaking time, but when the Boehner's speech went more than 2½ hours, Democrats objected.

"Is this an attempt to try to get some people to leave on a close vote?" asked Rep Henry Waxman, D-California, the bill's lead sponsor.

Also Friday, the House of Representatives phone switchboard went down as conservative radio hosts and congressmen made direct pleas for voters to dial the Capitol to voice their opposition to the bill.

"Phone traffic has increased to a level where some callers are receiving an 'all circuits are busy now, please try back again later' message," communications director Jeff Ventura said via e-mail.

Congressional sources said Democrats were hoping their constituents would also attempt to match phone calls opposed to the bill with phone calls for the bill.

"Call your congressman, right now!" urged Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, from the House floor as the chamber seemed near a vote.

Ventura said the bill was likely behind the phone-line crash. "The suspected cause ... is believed to be interest and inquiries regarding the expected vote on the climate bill," he wrote.

The House vote came one day after President Obama made an urgent plea for congressional approval in what could be an early make-or-break test of his young administration.

"Now is the time for us to lead," Obama said during an appearance Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. "We cannot be afraid of the future. We cannot be prisoners to the past."

The president said the bill will spark a "clean energy transformation" of the U.S. economy and "make possible the creation of millions of new jobs."

"Make no mistake," he emphasized. "This is a jobs bill."

Several moderate and conservative Democrats indicated that they received heavy constituent pressure in the final hours to buck their party leadership and vote against the bill.

"I can't begin to tell you how many calls we've received," said Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas. "And it's disproportionately vote 'no.'"

Gonzalez, who voted "yes," believes special interest groups generated many of the calls on both sides, including the late surge of negative feedback.

However, Gonzalez also said Obama tried to counter much of that pressure by personally reaching out to swing members since Thursday night.

Republicans have argued the bill would have the unintended consequence of devastating the country's battered industrial base while pushing polluting industries to countries with lower environmental standards.

Having cleared the House, the bill now faces an unclear future in the Senate, where Democratic leaders have held off on introducing their own version of the legislation.

CNN's Evan Glass contributed to this report.

All About House of RepresentativesEnergy PolicyNational EconomyGlobal Climate Change

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