Today, the U.S. House is expected to vote by a wide margin to stop the EPA’s job-crushing backdoor energy taxes.
Unfortunately it was a different story yesterday in the Senate, where 64 senators agreed the EPA must be stopped, but only 50 voted for the amendment that would actually stop them. The other 50 were able to sit on their hands and willingly allow the EPA to usurp the legislative responsibility with which voters entrusted them. Because of them, the vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, and the EPA power grab will – at least for now – continue.
The good news is that half the Senate -- including Democrats Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) -- have said that the EPA should not be twisting the 1970 Clean Air Act into a vehicle for undemocratically pursuing sweeping energy tax regulations. The only Republican to vote no was Susan Collins (Maine).
Proposed EPA mandates would serve as an unprecedented power grab over much of the U.S. economy and immediately impose costly new regulations leading to massive job losses and making U.S. businesses far less competitive in the world. Congress never gave the EPA the power to pursue these job-killing regulations.
The author of the Clean Air Act, Democratic Congressman John Dingell (who, bizarrely, is expected to vote against stopping the EPA today, as he recently did in committee) has made clear that what the EPA is now proposing in no way reflects the intent or purpose of the Clean Air Act when it was written over 40 years ago. He said:
“This is not what was intended by the Congress and by those of who wrote that legislation... So we are beginning to look at a wonderfully complex world which has the potential for shutting down or slowing down virtually all industry and all economic activity and growth.”
The EPA’s current agenda is to use the Clean Air Act to advance blatantly political objectives and major public policy changes that both Congress and the American people have repeatedly voted against.
Some senators chose to support phony amendments that only pretended to stop the EPA’s job-crushing regulations.
The Baucus amendment, a rubber stamp for the EPA that pretended to help small businesses and farms but was opposed by the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Farm Bureau, got just seven votes: Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Tim Johnson (S. D.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Carl Levin (Mich.).
The Rockefeller amendment, which intended to delay some of the EPA regulations for two years, but was written in a largely ineffective way, got just 12 votes. Three Republicans -- Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) -- and nine Democrats – Kent Conrad, Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.), and Jim Webb (Va.) -- voted for it.
The Stabenow amendment – a zero-plus-zero combination of the Baucus and Rockefeller amendments – got seven votes: Sherry Brown (Ohio), Robert Casey (Pa.), Kent Conrad, Tim Johnson, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Pryor, and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).
All told, 64 senators voted against some aspect of the EPA’s energy taxes, a broad bipartisan consensus that something must be done. Unfortunately, 14 of the senators who recognized the political need to stand up to the EPA chose not to provide the real economic relief that only the McConnell Amendment would have provided.
The 50 senators who voted against the McConnell Amendment (including many who are up for re-election in 2012 and in states that will be walloped by the EPA) disregarded their responsibility as the elected legislative branch. They will have to explain to voters why they want to outsource our energy and economic future to unelected bureaucrats in the EPA -- especially at a time when the economy remains weak and EPA regulations threaten to destroy millions of more American jobs.
We must continue to fight on this issue and to highlight the lack of political accountability over this and other regulatory power grabs Congress has allowed to happen by ceding power to President Obama and unelected bureaucrats. We must hold Congress accountable not just for the bad laws they pass but for the bad regulations they fail to stop.
The next step is to demand that Congress focus on de-funding these job-killing regulations through the appropriations process. It’s our last line of defense in the face of the senators who put environmental special interests ahead of mainstream of public opinion, common sense, and the constitutional responsibility of the legislative branch.
Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and the author of the forthcoming book "Democracy Denied" (BenBella Books, October 18, 2011).