Lewis to EPA: We'll gut your funding

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) wants to get the chair of Appropriations once Republicans take control of the House, and he’s campaigning hard to demonstrate his commitment to conservative causes.  In an attempt to move the conversation away from earmarking, Lewis has fixed his sights on the EPA and its “arbitrary interpretations of the Clean Air Act,” warning EPA head Lisa Jackson that he intends on stripping the agency of funding for her climate-change agenda:

Rep. Jerry Lewis is hoping to strengthen his bid to chair the House Appropriations Committee by threatening to strip funding from the Obama administration’s controversial environmental rules.

The California Republican vying for the gavel of the powerful spending panel sent a letter Monday to the Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson warning that the GOP-led House plans to strip funding for agency regulations and conduct “unprecedented levels of oversight,” with a particular focus on the administration’s climate change policies.

“In addition to scrutinizing the agency’s entire FY 2012 budget, with particular attention on the agency’s rulemaking process, the House Appropriations Committee will be exercising its prerogative to withhold funding for prospective EPA regulations and de-fund through the rescissions process many of those already on the books,” wrote Lewis, who chaired the spending panel in 2005 and 2006.

Specifically, Lewis said he wants to target EPA’s “ongoing arbitrary interpretation of the Clean Air Act” to begin regulating greenhouse gases in January. He said he will refuse to support federal funding to regulate greenhouse gases in the 112th Congress “unless Congress passes bipartisan energy legislation specifically providing the authority to do so.”

Lewis also signaled plans to target EPA agricultural regulations dealing with spilled milk on dairy farms, airborne dust, lawn fertilizer and arsenic in ground water.

Lewis might get a chance to do something about the FY2011 budget, too, if Democrats don’t stop focusing on the DREAM Act and other nonsense.  They have just three weeks to pass a full budget, but instead they’re discussing the remainder of the progressive wish-list agenda.  If they don’t act to create a full budget by the end of the session — one which Republicans will allow to proceed in the Senate — then the chair of Appropriations will have a lot more immediate impact on the EPA’s ambitions on climate change.

That’s not likely to change no matter whether Lewis or John Kingston gets the chair.  Reining in the EPA will be a high priority for business-minded Republicans, and funding will be the manner in which they yank the leash.  The Senate doesn’t have enough Democrats to force the House to fully fund the EPA, especially since so many Democrats will have to stand for re-election in 2012, especially in Midwestern and southern states that rely on agriculture for their economy.  Defending Jackson now or later in 2011 will have deep ramifications for politicians like Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jon Tester, and Jim Webb.