Democrats co-sponsor House bill to curb EPA

The effort to rein in the EPA and its attempts to impose a climate-change agenda that Congress wouldn’t pass over the last two years has always had bipartisan support in the Senate, although the enthusiasm of such support has been questionable.  Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has been pushing a measure that would impose a two-year moratorium on enforcement of the EPA’s finding on carbon dioxide, the heart of its new push for regulatory adventurism, a position that has been criticized as insufficient by Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who wants a permanent limitation of EPA authority to ensure that it doesn’t stray from Congressional mandates.

In the House, though, finding Democratic support for a leash on the EPA has been more difficult — until now:

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told POLITICO on Wednesday that he will be co-sponsoring the legislation from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) that puts a freeze on EPA’s regulatory agenda for major industrial polluters like power plants and petroleum refiners.

“The EPA needs to be reined in,” said Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and a frequent critic of the agency.

Upton and Whitfield, the chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, have been offering small changes to their bill in their courtship of moderate and conservative Democrats like Peterson. Support from House Democrats, they hope, will put pressure on Senate Democrats and the Obama White House to accept their legislation.

Peterson comes from a rural district in this state.  He avoided the disastrous outcome of his colleague Jim Oberstar in neighboring MN-08, mainly by keeping his mouth shut instead of acting like a cranky old man when challenged on his record by Lee Byberg in the midterms, and attempting to keep his own voting record moderate enough to withstand a tough election cycle.  Peterson’s defection from Pelosi’s ranks on the EPA will hurt Democratic cohesion — and more importantly, his senior position within the caucus lends considerable bipartisan heft to Upton’s efforts.

But Peterson isn’t alone, either.  Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) will add his name to the list of “original” co-sponsors, too, and adds some rhetorical fuel to the fire as well:

Blake Androff, Rahall’s spokesman, confirmed Thursday morning that the lawmaker will be an “original co-sponsor” of the legislation.

“I am dead-set against the EPA’s plowing ahead on its own with new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions,” Rahall said in a statement provided to The Hill. “The Congress – the place where the People’s will reigns – is the appropriate body to design a program with such sweeping ramifications.”

The legislation will block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. Lawmakers floated a draft version of the bill last month.

Congress will need that bipartisan imprimatur lent by Peterson and Rahall, and hopefully other Democrats in the House and Senate, if for no other reason than to defend Congressional checks on executive power.  Republicans have the votes in both chambers to pass some kind of EPA limitation in this session of Congress, but they will also need Barack Obama’s signature on it to get it passed into law.  A month ago, Obama issued a rare veto threat on any bill that limited the EPA’s authority on greenhouse gases, and he’s almost certainly not bluffing.  The GOP might need to pass this as a rider on a funding bill in order to avoid the veto.

Even if Obama vetoes the bill, though, it will still be a useful exercise.  Obama will have put himself in the position of defying Congress’ bipartisan will on the EPA’s authority in an effort to increase the regulatory burden on business and the economy.  Running on that in 2012 won’t help Obama win re-election, and it will also hurt Democrats trying to keep seats in Congress, especially in the Senate.

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