WASHINGTON (CNN) – A sharply divided House of Representatives debated passage of a White House-backed climate change bill Friday as Democratic leaders made a final push among members worried about the legislation's potential economic and political fallout.
"We're getting there," House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, told CNN. "We're on the eight (yard line). First and goal."
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.
The potential House vote is slated to come one day after President Barack 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."
Republicans have argued that 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.
Even if the bill passes the House, it 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