Top Republicans craft strategy to fight EPA’s expanding regulatory reach

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Top Republicans in the House and Senate are in the middle of crafting a plan to stop unprecedented regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of carbon dioxide emissions, but confusion abounds the details.

Republicans bent on stopping the rules face key challenges — including the threat of a presidential veto on any legislation they pass and uncertainty over a prospective budget fight in March.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton met with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Sen. James Inhofe on Wednesday to discuss potential legislation that Upton would introduce in the House, where Republicans hold a majority.

The meeting, one of a series the two officials have been holding to coordinate House and Senate strategy on the issue, did not appear to result in any significant progress. “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you anything about the meeting,” said Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey.

The legislation the two are discussing would likely remove greenhouse gasses from the EPA’s reach under the Clean Air Act. For now, the EPA is claiming authority to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act because of an “endangerment finding” in which the agency declared the emission to be harmful to society.

Now, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is sprinting to finalize regulations to implement the endangerment finding that could have a major impact on American industry and economy.

While Inhofe and Upton nail down legislation, one key issue yet unresolved by Republicans is what role the appropriations committees will play in the effort to take on EPA regulations.

“No one knows if appropriations committee will do something to stop EPA first,” the top lobbyist for a major energy trade association told TheDC.

When the current continuing resolution (CR) – legislation that authorizes government spending at current levels – expires in March, Republicans will have to decide whether to take on the EPA by cutting off funding.

In a new budget or spending bill, Congress could instruct the EPA not to spend any money on implementing global warming regulations.

If the GOP is unsuccessful in March, insiders say a “clean” CR is likely. That means spending will not change and the EPA will be able to continue regulating until at least the end of this fiscal year.

The budget fight ticking clock is compounded by the difficulty of passing a stand-alone bill through the Harry Reid-led Senate and a potential veto by President Obama.

As Republicans move forward with their strategy to stop the EPA, insiders say they will closely watch how quickly the House passes legislation to address the issue and how moderate Democrats in the Senate react to any early votes on the matter. Democrats who are up for re-election in 2012 especially will be under pressure to vote for a bill that would at least delay EPA regulations.

The top lobbyist to a major energy trade association told TheDC that dynamics in the Senate will likely split lawmakers into three camps – liberal Democrats who will support the EPA rules, moderate Democrats like Sen. Jay Rockefeller who could be persuaded to support at least a two-year delay, and Republicans who will likely support any bill that prevents the EPA from regulating carbon even if only temporarily.

When contacted by The Daily Caller, a spokesperson for Sen. Mark Begich, considered to be a moderate Democrat on this issue, said the senator had not yet taken a position. Other moderate Democrats – including Sens. Max Baucus and Amy Klobuchar – have not yet returned requests for comment.

Besides the Upton-Inhofe-led push, Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso is also expected to introduce legislation. A spokesperson for Barrasso confirmed to The Daily Caller that the senator will be looking to introduce a bill within the next week. His, however, will go beyond refining the language of the Clean Air Act, and take a broader approach to all EPA regulations on greenhouse gases.