EPA-blocking legislation fails in Senate, on hold in House

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The Senate rejected four amendments Wednesday, including one offered by a Republican and three from Democrats, that would block or restrict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. But a vote on legislation in the House offered by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan to block EPA regulations was put off until Thursday.

The bill is expected to easily pass the House. Despite the Senate failure, however, Republicans are trying their darndest to paint the it as a victory by pointing to a bipartisan consensus to rein in the EPA.

The Senate acted first by rejecting Democratic amendments that were viewed as middle-of-the-road compromises. The first, offered by Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, would have simply limited the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases, and exemplify agriculture from climate regulations. It failed on a 7-93 vote.

The Democratic-controlled Senate also rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan intended to delay the implementation of the regulations by two years, strengthen tax credits for manufacturing clean technology and exempt agricultural form regulations.

The third amendment, offered by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia would have delayed EPA regulations by two years. It was rejected, however, with a 12-88 vote. Rockefeller’s amendment was the only option that had some Republican support. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Susan Collins of Maine voted in favor.

The last EPA amendment, offered by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, would have repealed outright the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The legislation mirrored a previous bill authored by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, but it failed on a 50-50 vote.

Though the Republican amendment was expected to fail, it still came short of GOP hopes. Prior to the votes, Inhofe spokesperson Matt Dempsey told The Daily Caller that their goal was to use Democrat votes on the amendments to show a “strong bipartisan majority in the Senate to rein in the EPA.”

“We view this as a starting ground,” said Dempsey, who added that he expected 60-70 senators to vote for the at least one of the amendments.

By the end of the night, 64 Senators (17 of them Democrats) voted for at least one measure to rein in the EPA – a victory by Republican leadership standards.  “Today’s Senate votes prove momentum is on our side,” said Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Today’s Senate vote proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bipartisan consensus is to stop the EPA’s regulatory march, and I look forward to a strong vote in the House tomorrow to do exactly that,” added Upton.

Industry observers also latched on to the bipartisan agreement to curb the EPA’s power. “These votes demonstrate bipartisan opposition to EPA’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions because these regulations could harm jobs, increase electricity costs and hurt our economy,” said Steve Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). The organization has been one of many in the fossil fuel industry to paint EPA actions as regulations that would raise energy costs and kill jobs.

But Dempsey also told The DC that the goal was to at least put Democrats on the record saying they supported reining in the EPA’s authority. After that, the strategy, according to Dempsey, is to convince Democrats the best way to accomplish that is with the Inhofe bill.

The White House was fast to respond to the Senate votes, applauding the actions to “defend the [EPA’s] ability to protect public health under the Clean Air Act.”

“By rejecting efforts to rollback EPA’s common-sense steps to safeguard Americans from harmful pollution, the Senate also rejected an approach that would have increased the nation’s dependence on oil, contradicted the scientific consensus on global warming, and jeopardized America’s ability to lead the world in the clean energy economy,” said a statement released by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

The Obama Administration has threatened repeatedly to veto any legislation that would scale back the EPA’s authority. But White House threats have stopped short of targeting Democratic alternatives.