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Standing Up to the EPA's Power Grab

I wrote here on June 10 about a crucial Senate vote on blocking the EPA’s backdoor efforts to impose global warming regulations under the 1970 Clean Air Act. That vote, unfortunately, failed. 

However, the Senate can make another attempt with an appropriations rider that would defund the EPA’s global warming efforts. A vote on just that was expected in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, but the Democratic leaders -- who feared it would pass -- have now delayed it indefinitely. We need to keep the pressure on.

To recap, the EPA’s global warming regulations were originally devised by White House climate czar Carol Browner in the 1990s, when she was EPA administrator. It was a strategy to circumvent Congress and force through unpopular regulations without a vote.

The tactic of shoehorning global warming regulations into the 1970s Clean Air Act seemed far-fetched until the Supreme Court opened the door for it with their decision in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007. That 5-4 decision instructed the EPA to decide whether or not to pursue global warming regulation based on the language of the statute.

A reasonable EPA would have reacted to the Court by citing the enormous administrative burden and absurd results of trying to stop global warming using a 40 year-old law designed for very different problems and deferred to Congress on the issue. But the Obama EPA, under the watchful eye of Climate Czar Browner (she couldn’t officially get the EPA administrator job she had under President Clinton because her service on the board of the Socialist International Commission on World Governance would have made her unconfirmable by the Senate) is moving full steam ahead.

The EPA has decided to apply the full force of the Clean Air Act to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and simply ignore the inconvenient requirements of the law. The first regulations are set to take effect for power plants next year. The impact, like cap-and-trade, is designed to lead to skyrocketing prices so people won’t be able to afford to use as much electricity.

Two days before the June vote it looked like it would pass. The White House, however, launched a massive counter-offensive, including a veto threat and direct strong-arming of several key energy-state senators. Harry Reid ultimately had no choice but to promise a future vote on a two-year delay of EPA regulations proposed by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Even so, all 41 Republicans and 6 Democrats voted to stop the EPA. The 47 votes were just 4 shy of the 51 needed for passage.

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee was set to vote on stopping the EPA by passing an amendment to the Interior-EPA Appropriations bill to defund the EPA’s global warming regulations. Because appropriations are an annual process, it would be only a one-year ban. But appropriations riders can often be renewed annually for a long time, and at the very least it would buy us needed time to revisit the issue in a more balanced Congress next year.

A look at a list of the Senate Appropriations Committee members shows this would be a winnable vote. All 12 Republicans are likely yes votes, just as all 41 Republicans voted for Murkowski’s permanent solution in June. Of the 18 Democrats, there are three who voted for Murkowski—Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Unless they flip-flop, that makes a 15-15 tie. Two other Democrats on the committee, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, are co-sponsors of Rockefeller’s two-year delay, and so unless they flip-flop they should put the one-year funding ban over the top. It would also be a tough vote for other Democrats on the committee from energy and manufacturing states likes Jon Tester of Montana, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Democratic leadership apparently saw the same thing. We just got word that they’ve pulled the bill from consideration because they feared the amendment would pass. But sooner or later the Senate will have to get around to funding the EPA and the Interior Department. When they do, they should use it as an opportunity to stand up to the EPA’s power grab and take responsibility as the legitimate legislative branch of government.

Mr. Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. He can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, and through www.PhilKerpen.com.

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Phil Kerpen is the founder of American Commitment Action Fund, on the web at www.BookerFAIL.com.