Since the 112th Congress was gaveled into session, lawmakers have introduced numerous different pieces of legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. But they have all been burdened with a threat from President Obama to veto any bill that undermines the EPA’s authority.
As recently as last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson reiterated the president’s threat, telling reporters that “Nothing has changed.”
Republicans, for the most part, have been unable to figure out a way around this problem. Even if the House and Senate were to agree and vote on EPA regulation-blocking legislation with the same language, they would probably be unable to muster the two-thirds of the Congress necessary to override an Obama veto.
Some observers, including one U.S. Senator, are now speculating, however, that not only is President Obama’s veto threat hollow, but he actually wants to sign a bill that includes a two-year delay of implementation of EPA regulations against carbon.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he thinks the president would support a bill that was introduced by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia that would delay EPA regulations for two years.
“That’s a possible scenario,” said Inhofe. “[Obama] wants to get it beyond the 2012 elections for his purposes.”
Inhofe went on to say, though, that President Obama wants to be able to sign a two-year delay bill and then tout it to voters as a White House effort — presumably to stimulate job creation and keep costs down for consumers.
But Inhofe, who has been the leading critic over the years of all climate change-related policy, isn’t the only one who foresees the president eventually signing a two-year delay.
“The administration would love to be forced to postpone implementation for a couple years,” Dan Kish of the Institute for Energy Research told The Daily Caller. “They will feign objections to a delay but that’s the briar patch they want to be thrown in.”
“It gets him [Obama] past the election,” Kish added.
The top lobbyist for an advocacy organization also told TheDC that because of the closeness of the 2012 elections, the White House may not want to veto any bill that Republicans have successfully framed as one that would save jobs and reduce electricity costs.
“People are smart enough in the White House to know EPA regulating greenhouse gases is a swamp,” the lobbyist said. They “would like the EPA not to do it deep down.”
When contacted by TheDC, Rockefeller’s spokesperson, Vincent Morris, said the senator had not been coordinating with the White House on a two-year delay, but “of course we’ve shared our concerns and our solutions.”
But even with the fast-approaching 2012 elections, Obama will have to walk a fine line between satisfying the public by delaying regulations and angering his liberal base and environmental groups by not defending the EPA’s authority.
According to Kish, one way the White House may try to get around that is to coordinate with Rockefeller and attach his two-year delay bill to another piece of legislation Obama would be forced to sign. That way, Obama could at least save face with both the right and left — even if just temporarily.
Inhofe, however, said he’s not giving up on the bill he introduced with Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Their legislation — the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 — would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases for the purpose of climate change.
“I don’t want a two-year delay,” Inhofe told TheDC. “I want to face the issue now.”
But though Rockefeller’s bill may be the only one that could realistically become law, Inhofe said he could not predict any kind of timeline for that. “I don’t know…I’m not sure how serious he [Rockefeller] is. He’s had this for years now, but he’s never really pushed it.”
As for his bill with Upton? “We’re talking on a regular basis,” said Inhofe. “We will wait until the hearing on Wednesday [in front of the House Energy and Power subcommittee] is over to decide how to go further.”