Senate to vote on Obama’s power grab

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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On Thursday, the Senate will vote on S.J.Res.26, a resolution to block EPA from usurping powers never delegated to it by Congress. Failure means allowing EPA to go forward, apparently in flagrant violation of our constitutional traditions simply because too many in Congress desire, but can’t bear to take responsibility for, more of the Obama agenda.

EPA’s breathtaking Power Grab raises questions critical to our form of governance. The powers EPA has claimed for itself include staking out national policy on the contentious “climate” issue, and even amending the Clean Air Act on its own initiative and authority.

S.J.Res. 26 was originated by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It is co-sponsored by 40 others, mostly Republicans but including three Democrats (the math of which also tells you that three Republicans are not on board: Sens. Brown, Collins and Snowe). It seeks to exercise, for just the second time, the Congressional Review Act passed in 1996 as part of the “Contract with America”. That law allows legislators to check bureaucrats gone wild by vetoing a “major rule” within 60 days of an agency publishing it.

In this case, the rule is the Obama EPA’s effort to delegate to itself inherently legislative powers. These include Congress’s authority—wisely eschewed to date—to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act, which would make EPA an economic regulatory agency despite having been caught as complicit in promoting scandalous “climate science” in the push to spectacularly expand its budget and powers.

You may recall “ClimateGate” from last year and the series of “-gates” befalling the UN’s big-government project, the IPCC. EPA outsourced its scientific assessment responsibilities in this matter, to principally rely instead on the work of the two disgraced bodies caught sexing up their claims of unfolding climate catastrophe. When caught out, EPA silenced their internal whistleblower.

The Senate is not voting on science, however. The Murkowski resolution merely overturns the legal force and effect of EPA’s claim that carbon dioxide endangers human health and the environment (really). Congress has serially rejected that proposition. Now EPA is saying “so what?” This poses a referendum not on climate science but the constitutional propriety of EPA making climate policy without Congress providing any specific guidance to do so.

That is, the Senate will vote whether to let an agency carry out the most expansive regulatory intervention in American history on its own. Will senators stand by and accede to the stealth erosion of many of our economic freedoms, as energy sources that work are regulated out of existed through punitive schemes that the public would never sanction were their elected representatives to try enacting in broad daylight?

It is in fact this very lack of political will that many senators will use to rationalize opposition to the Murkowski resolution: they want this major vehicle for “organizing society”, but are protective enough about one job—their own—that they dare not vote to enact it.

However, given that the practical implications are the same, constituents must view a “no” vote on Thursday, or a vote in support of one of several cynical measures being discussed as “alternatives” to Murkowksi’s clean and simple resolution—its language is prescribed in the Congressional Review Act—as a vote in support of Team Obama’s constitutionally offensive gambit.

This vote deeply matters, so you constituents need to make it count.

It is odd that among the three Republicans not yet on board is Sen. Scott Brown (MA), who during his campaign to serve the remainder of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s term noted that, while we know the climate changes, some serious questions must be answered before undertaking “cap and trade” or EPA’s backdoor Power Grab at issue on Thursday. As the Boston Globe reported at the time on Brown’s then-impeccably responsible stance, in the face of ClimateGate:

“It’s interesting. I think the globe is always heating and cooling,’’ [Brown] said. “It’s a natural way of ebb and flow. The thing that concerns me lately is some of the information I’ve heard about potential tampering with some of the information.’’

Brown continued, saying: “I just want to make sure if in fact . . . the earth is heating up, that we have accurate information, and it’s unbiased by scientists with no agenda. Once that’s done, then I think we can really move forward with a good plan.’’

With Obama moving forward and with a plan so bad that even the administration and liberal senators like Barbara Boxer of San Francisco have admitted it will wreak havoc, apparently we have in the six months since ClimateGate concluded that we possess accurate information unbiased by scientists with no agenda. Huh. I missed that.

That Team Obama are only admitting the damage that will follow EPA’s move in order to cajole support for Senate adoption of a negotiated version of the same fate, less subject to legal challenge, is not relevant for these purposes.

The responsible course is to remove the false urgency of EPA possibly doing worse things. Of course, without false urgency, this entire agenda dies. And all parties involved know it. But that’s not worth shredding the Constitution.

Contact both of your senators and tell them to support the Constitution’s clear and established scheme for making law in the United States. Preserve those Senate prerogatives that some are now, selectively, all too happy to abandon if it gets them out of taking responsibility for what they want to do to you. Support the Murkowski resolution and stop this critical step in Obama’s Power Grab.

Christopher C. Horner serves as a Senior Fellow at CEI.