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Sen. Boxer Warns EPA Provision in GOP Tax Cut Bill Will Lead to Thousands of Deaths

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Dec. 13, 2011: Sen. Barbara Boxer speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill. (Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works)

Sen. Barbara Boxer warned Tuesday that more than 8,000 people will die every year if Congress passes the Republican-backed payroll tax cut bill -- because it includes a provision that would delay regulations on industrial boilers. 

That bill passed the House Tuesday evening on a 234-193 vote. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared it "dead" on arrival, Boxer, D-Calif., and other Democratic senators lined up to assail the myriad riders that were attached to the bill as a means to win over conservative support. 

Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, trained her sights on a provision that would slow the controversial boiler rule out of the Environmental Protection Agency

"By stopping the clean boiler rule from going into effect, more than 8,000 people per year will die for every year that that rule is delayed," she said. "And yet the Republicans in the House have just done that in their payroll tax cut bill." 

Boxer, citing "peer-reviewed science," rattled off a string of statistics that come from the EPA regarding the impact of the House proposal. 

She said the GOP bill would lead to 8,100 "premature deaths" per year, 52,000 more asthma cases per year and 5,100 more heart attacks per year, in addition to hundreds of thousands of "lost work days." 

"Time and time again, House Republicans have added quote 'poison pill' unquote riders to must-pass legislation," she said. "But this time these are really poison riders, because they are in essence saying we'll have more poison in our atmosphere." 

She noted that the EPA recently scaled back the rule, and that it now only imposes new controls on about 5,500 of the largest boilers in the country -- a fraction of the total number nationwide. 

But the industry claims the rules are still too onerous on business. 

Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement after the latest EPA revision that the updated rule will still "do significant harm to job growth and investment at a critical time in our recovery." 

"Factoring in regulatory costs currently in place, it is already 20 percent more expensive to manufacture in the United States compared to our major trade partners," he said, urging the EPA to reconsider. 

On the Republican side, an aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., noted that Boxer's comments seem to ignore bipartisan legislation in her chamber which would also seek to modify the EPA boiler rule and extend the implementation timetable. 

"This attacking Republicans is a failure to also address the number of Democrats on her side that share the complaints of Republicans," said Matt Dempsey, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the Senate environment committee. 

Boxer's press conference was not the first time a lawmaker has warned of the mortal effects of legislation. During the health care overhaul debate, then-Rep. Alan Grayson, R-Fla., took to the floor to warn that the Republican plan is for Americans to "die quickly."