Yesterday, the Senate had several opportunities to put a leash on the EPA and its attempt to grant itself jurisdiction on climate-change regulation. Proposals from both Republicans and Democrats failed to pass cloture yesterday, but the number of Democrats crossing over to push back against regulation sends a message to the White House that opposition to their plans to conduct an end-around Congress has now achieved bipartisan status:
In a series of Senate votes Wednesday on measures to block or limit EPA climate rules, 17 Democrats broke with their party to support measures to rein in one of the administration’s top environmental policy initiatives. Four went so far as to side with a GOP-led effort to nullify EPA’s climate rules altogether: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
In the House, meanwhile, about a dozen Democrats are expected to join a near-unanimous GOP caucus to vote for an almost identical anti-EPA bill on Thursday. In what could be a test vote for final passage, 12 Democrats broke ranks Wednesday to vote in favor of the rule to move forward with the bill, introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (D-Mich.). …
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat, told POLITICO earlier this week that there’s growing opinion among Democrats that EPA is becoming a “rogue agency,” adding that the White House needs to take action to curb the agency’s power. “I think the president’s out of step on this one, and he’s going to have to get his agency under control,” he said.
In the Senate on Wednesday, even Democrats who are typically backers of the Obama administration – like Max Baucus of Montana, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Carl Levin of Michigan – jumped on the anti-EPA bandwagon to endorse Democratic amendments to curtail the agency’s power. Those amendments were aimed at allowing vulnerable Democrats to take slaps at EPA that could protect them in upcoming elections.
Don’t get too enthused over the bipartisanship, of course. The Senate votes in particular were safe enough to cast. Harry Reid didn’t bring the bills to the floor until he was certain they wouldn’t pass cloture.
However, it took him a couple of weeks to reach that certainty, which gives an indication just how unpopular the EPA effort has become. The very fact that vulnerable Democrats feel the need to take these votes demonstrates the extent to which Lisa Jackson’s EPA has grown extreme. Inevitably, that will be expressed in one fashion or another in Congress, Time’s Bryan Walsh warns:
So environmentalists can breathe a sigh of relief—but not a deep one. Today’s events shows that the mood on Capitol Hill has definitely turned against advocates of action on climate change, leaving greens essentially playing defense. More worrying, environmentalists have to wonder just how solid the White House will be on this issue. The Obama Administration has sent mixed signals on whether it would go to the mat for the EPA on climate change specifically. In conservations with environmental leaders at the Fortune Brainstorm Green meeting earlier this week, it became clear that while they felt confident of the White House’s backing against any efforts to undo protections around public health—like a move by Republicans to weaken EPA regulations on mercury emissions—greens aren’t so sure that Obama will be with them on climate change. It was telling that in a major speech last week on energy, Obama barely mentioned global warming and did not talk about defending EPA regulations on carbon.
In any case, it’s all hands on deck time for environmental organizations, who’ve seen a stunning reversal of fortune since the heady days of 2009. Their best hope might be the Republican party itself, simply going too far and inviting a public backlash. “This is a huge overreach,” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp told me on Monday. “The public wants clean air. They want to know that government regulation is keeping them safe from industrial pollution.” I think Krupp is right—but wanting clean air isn’t the same thing as wanting climate regulation.
It’s not the same thing at all. The public mainly supports efforts on particulate emissions where science clearly shows danger to the public. Carbon dioxide is a naturally-occurring element necessary for life on Earth, whereas chlorofluorocarbons and carbon monoxide are most decidedly not. The science on global warming is hardly conclusive, and some would argue hardly a science at all. Americans don’t want to sacrifice their economic future for a religious belief system to limit a non-toxic emission, and the longer Democrats go before realizing it, the greater the damage to their political prospects will be. Congressional Democrats seem to have belatedly awoken to that danger.