Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson, who played a major role securing rural lawmakers' support for cap-and-trade legislation this summer, said today he would vote 'no' if a similar bill returned to the House for final passage.
The Agriculture Committee chairman said he was "stuck voting" for the bill (which is now awaiting Senate action) in June because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi granted his requests for broad agriculture concessions, but won't support it again if it remains unchanged.
He made the comment during an appearance on a conservative talk radio show hosted by Scott Hennen in Fargo, N.D. (audio below).
"First of all, this isn’t going anyplace in the Senate," Peterson said. "But if it did and we ended up with a bill that was similar to what came out of the House and that was going to become law, I would vote no."
Peterson's possible defection could prove fatal to the bill -- if it ever passes the Senate -- since he is an influential voice among rural Democrats. It also may reflect how much heat he has taken from his relatively conservative district for supporting a controversial bill labeled a "national energy tax" by Republicans.
He told Hennen that he is concerned about the bill's effect on the economy and that "we're heading off on too much ideology."
UPDATE: Tom Erickson, a spokester for the National Republican Congressional Committee, blasted a response this morning to Peterson's comment. The NRCC has been targeting Peterson for months, though Republicans have yet to put up a challenger.
“After throwing Minnesota’s ag community under the bus, Collin Peterson is shamelessly trying to win back their support by opposing a bill that he helped write," Erickson wrote. " It’s great that Peterson finally opened his eyes to the fact that agriculture loses out under this bill, but he had no business putting the lifeblood of Greater Minnesota’s economy on the line in the first place.”
It's worth noting that Peterson did not explicitly state in the interview that agriculture loses out under the bill. He built in several provisions that could potentially benefit agriculture, though there is a lot of debate about the net impact on the industry.
P: It was one of those things where the ag people asked me to get involved to make sure that if anything ever happened they’d be able to live with it. And part of what happened was I ended up getting … everything I asked for and then if I’m going to have any integrity I was kind of stuck voting for it.
P: But I said at the time that in spite of the fact that I voted for it to move the process along, if it would have been the final bill I would have voted no if it was going to become law … First of all this isn’t going anyplace in the Senate, but if it did and we ended up with a bill that was similar to what came out of the House and that was going to become law I would vote no. So I kind of got drug into the process.
H: Do you regret how you did vote on the first vote given the reaction to it?
P: Well, I didn’t have any choice, Scott, because once I entered into the negotiations and said, ‘This is what we need,’ I didn’t think they were going to ever – in my wildest dreams think they would give us that. They ended up doing it.
H: So you kept your word cus they put that in but you’re saying that was only for that vote and you ultimately would probably end up voting no on it coming back anyway.
P: Yea. I’m not convinced that we know what we’re doing on this climate change. I think we’re heading off on too much ideology and I’m not sure that -- apparently a lot of scientists think they know what they’re doing. I’m not sure that we actually do. And I’m not sure we should put this kind of a burden on the economy.