Thursday, April 07, 2011

Senate Vote Of 50-50 Fails To Stop EPA GHG Regs

Apr 7: In a rare occurrence, late in the afternoon on April 6, both chambers of the U.S. Congress were simultaneously debating legislative proposals to prohibit the Administrator of U.S. EPA from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas (GHG) to address climate change [See WIMS 4/6/11]. Although the House proposal was a separate bill (H.R.910), and the Senate proposal was an amendment to another bill (S.493), the substance of each proposal was essentially the same. In the end, the Senate narrowly defeated the major amendment to S.493 (McConnell Amdt. No. 183) by a vote of 50-50 -- i.e. 60 votes necessary for approval. In the House, members debated a number of amendments but delayed a vote on final passage, which is expected today and passage is near certain in the Republican-dominated House.
    The Senate vote is a true representation of the ideological split between Republicans and Democrats on this issue. The 50 votes against the amendment were all Democrats and two Independents. Democrats Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted with 47 Republicans in support of the amendment. The Senate vote and the expected House vote essentially set up a stalemate on this issue. Additionally, the White House has indicated it would not support such legislation. It should be noted that Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) offered amendments for various delays and exemptions to the regulations (i.e. Amendments # 236, #277, #215, respectively) which were all defeated. However, all three Senators voted against the main McConnell amendment.

    The White House issued a brief statement saying, "The administration is encouraged by the Senate's actions today to defend the Environmental Protection Agency'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. The Clean Air Act is a vital tool in protecting our families -- particularly children -- from a wide variety of harmful pollutants that cause asthma and lung disease, and the administration remains committed to protecting this important law.

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and EPW Committee Members released a joint statement in response to the Senate's rejection of four proposals that they said "would interfere with the implementation of the Clean Air Act and block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from doing its job of curbing carbon pollution from the nation's largest polluters. The Senate action to vote down the measures today avoided an unprecedented repeal of protections under the Clean Air Act." In addition to the comments below, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also issued comments in support of the Senate vote.

    Senator Boxer said, "Today, the Senate stood up for children and families by defeating four amendments that would have interfered with EPA's efforts to protect the health and safety of the American public. The Clean Air Act has had strong bipartisan support since it was passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon. The American people support EPA's efforts to safeguard us from polluters, and I will continue to fight any effort to weaken the Clean Air Act." Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), Chair of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee said, "Forty years ago, naysayers claimed the Clean Air Act was too costly and would doom our economy. We heard the same predictions in 1990 when we strengthened the Clean Air Act. But the naysayers were wrong. Since 1970, the Clean Air Act's benefits have outweighed costs by 30 to 1, and our Gross Domestic Product has grown over 200 percent. Cleaner air has saved thousands of lives, billions of dollars in health care costs and it has grown our economy. By voting down these amendments, we have kept America on the right course."

    Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee said, "I find it unconscionable that in the year 2011 the Clean Air Act is being attacked by big polluters and their allies in Congress who want to gut this successful public health law. We know the very real health benefits of cleaner air, and that is why I introduced a Resolution, S. Res. 119, with 33 co-sponsors, to fight back against efforts to deregulate polluters." Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Chair of the Children's Health and Environmental Responsibility Subcommittee said. "The ongoing assault against the Clean Air Act, as evidenced by the McConnell amendment, represents the dramatic shift to ideological politics that have taken over Washington. The Clean Air Act was passed with strong support from Republicans and Democrats before being signed into law by President Nixon to protect the integrity of our air supply. Today, instead of protecting the health and well-being of our people, some are protecting the profits of large polluters, and I simply think that's wrong."

    U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement saying "an overwhelming bipartisan majority of senators voted in favor of proposals to stop job- and economy-destroying EPA regulations." Senator McConnell was referring to alternative amendments offered by Democrats and the votes on those amendments and indicating that there were 64 votes for one or more EPA amendments. He said, "An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Senate today voted to rein in job- and economy-destroying EPA regulations, underscoring the fact that both Republicans and Democrats oppose giving unelected bureaucrats at the EPA the power to impose a new national energy tax on American job creators and families. Altogether, more than 60 senators voted in favor of four amendments that, to one degree or another, would restrain the EPA's power to regulate carbon emissions from farmers, manufacturers and power plants. I welcome the House's expected approval today of legislation similar to the McConnell/Inhofe amendment, one of the four amendments voted on by the Senate. McConnell's amendment garnered 50 votes, significantly more than the other three combined. We in the Senate will continue to fight for legislation that will give the certainty that no unelected bureaucrat at the EPA is going to make efforts to create jobs even more difficult than the administration already has."

    Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works issued a statement after what he called, "the Senate's resounding bipartisan repudiation of EPA's cap-and-trade agenda." He said, "Today's Senate votes demonstrate clear momentum behind stopping EPA's cap-and-trade agenda to make consumers pay more for gasoline, electricity, and effectively end affordable energy for the American economy. A total of 64 senators voted for amendments that, in one form or another, expressed opposition to various aspects of EPA's global warming regulatory schemes. I will continue to press for votes on my legislation until we get it to the President's desk. When all is said and done, a bipartisan majority in the Senate issued a sobering message to EPA: its cap-and-trade agenda is wearing thin, suggesting it's time to reverse course to put Congress back in charge of America's energy policy."

    Access the statement from the White House (click here). Access the statement from Senator Boxer and colleagues (click here). Access the statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access the statement from Senator Inhofe with links to votes on various amendments (click here). Access legislative details including roll call votes of H.R. 910 (click here). Access legislative details including roll call votes of S.493 (click here).

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