Honorable Steve Kagen, M.D.

Wisconsin's former 8th District Representative

January 4, 2007 to December 22, 2010

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Changes key to U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen’s vote on cap-trade

Q&A: Changes key to U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen’s cap-trade

Appleton Post-Crescent
July 10, 2009

On June 25, Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton was undecided about a controversial energy bill that included a cap-and-trade provision. On June 26, Kagen voted for it, as the House of Representatives narrowly passed the bill 219-212.

What happened in between? For one thing, Kagen was one of a handful of uncommitted House Democrats who were called to the White House to discuss their reticence.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Kagen talked about the bill and what persuaded him to support it.

On why he voted for the bill:

Kagen said he had two major concerns — how the nation’s economy would be affected if other nations didn’t follow suit with similar environmental standards and how the state’s economy would be affected.

But he said both of his concerns were addressed. The first was with a provision that set trade limitations on countries without standards.

“By 2020, any nation that wants to sell something in the United States has to adopt our values,” Kagen said. “That, to me, is very important to help balance our trade.”

The impact on some major Wisconsin industries was addressed, too, by exempting them from the cap-and-trade provisions, and adding allowances for them.

“With the final version of the bill, the paper industry, the dairy industry, the agriculture industry and the forestry industry are protected,” he said.

On what happened at the White House meeting:

Kagen said he was asked to meet with White House staff and also spoke directly with President Barack Obama.

“We had a meaningful conversation about what Wisconsin needs in the energy bill,” he said. “I wasn’t shy about my framing about where they needed to be. I was pleased to see those needs were met.”

He said that, though he was able to convey his message, he got no assurances at the meeting that anything would change.

“My relief didn’t come until I saw the ink on the pages,” he said.

On seeing the final version of the bill:

Kagen said that one of his roommates at his Washington apartment, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., is on the House Rules Committee and came home late that night with a copy of a lengthy amendment to the bill that included the allowances Kagen sought for the Wisconsin industries.

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