Sen. Jim Inhofe: Obama can’t veto legislation blocking EPA regulations

As of Wednesday night, a vote may finally be in sight for an amendment that would revoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. After days of back and forth over scheduling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled late Wednesday that a vote is tentatively set for Thursday afternoon.

The amendment, offered by Minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is based off legislation authored by Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. It is part of a group of highly contentious amendments attached to a small business bill that have kept Democrats from bringing it to the floor for a vote.

Other than McConnell’s, the other two amendments, offered by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, would do away with a tax credit for ethanol farmers and repeal the 1099 reporting rule for small business, respectively.

“I am concerned about this,” Inhofe told The Daily Caller in an interview when discussing the ever changing vote schedule.

But according to Inhofe, the reason the EPA amendment hasn’t come up for a vote yet is because Democrats are concerned about what it could do to their re-election chances in 2012.

“The main reason they don’t want a vote on this is because they have 23 Democratic senators coming up for re-election,” he told TheDC. “That would be a huge hit for them.”

Even if Inhofe gets his vote, however, how President Obama would respond should an amendment stripping the EPA’s power to regulate carbon dioxide is anyone’s guess. Senior White House officials have reportedly warned of a veto, but in public, Obama has been silent on the issue.

In his speech at Georgetown University Wednesday on securing America’s energy future, the president was noticeably silent on the battle across town on whether the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The silence angered some environmental groups, and prompted Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth to issue a statement Obama for “going AWOL on a crucial fight over the Clean Air Act.”

And earlier this week, nearly 20 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Obama calling on him not to agree to any spending legislation that undermines EPA regulations.

“Our nation is facing tough economic times, but though times call for intelligent decision-making and wisdom, not reckless cuts that will do more harm than good – cuts that will lead to illness and premature death,” said the letter.

But according to Inhofe, the president is in a political bind with the provision. “It’s an amendment on a bill he would hard time vetoing,” he said, referring to the small business bill the amendment is attached to. Moreover, Obama himself falls into the camp of those up for re-election in 2012 who are worried about being labeled as Democrats that voted against a measure that would lower gas prices.

“I think the president would use that as an excuse not to veto it,” said Inhofe, Plus, “I’m going to put this on everything that comes along,” he added