Senate Republicans fell short Thursday, 47-53, of overturning the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, but exposed a significant split among Democrats. It might bode ill for passage this year of comprehensive energy and climate-change legislation.
As The Washington Post reported, the contentious vote “suggested the Senate is far from decided on whether to put a price on the industrial emissions that stem from everyday activities such as lighting a home or driving a car.”
A bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sought to overturn the EPA’s administrative finding last year that declared greenhouse gases dangerous and assumed authority to regulate them.
Ohio’s senators split the way Ohioans have come to expect. Republican Sen. George Voinoivich voted to restore authority to a legislative branch the people of the U.S. elect. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown voted to protect greater central government in an unelected regulatory body.
We, like Murkowski, regard the EPA’s administrative intrusion of applying the Clean Air Act to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to be a monumental over-reach. The law never was intended to regulate CO2. The EPA’s power grab circumvents legislature authority, while centralizing economic decisions affecting a wide spectrum of industries under the administration’s control.
The division in Democratic ranks was epitomized by liberal senator and global warming true-believer Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, who agreed with Republican Murkowski. “I have long maintained that the Congress — not the unelected EPA — must decide major economic and energy policy,” Rockefeller said. “EPA regulation will have an enormous impact on the economic security of West Virginia and our energy future.”
Senators’ votes could have far-reaching political significance in this election year, putting lawmakers on the record in the climate-change debate. President Barack Obama had threatened a veto. Nevertheless, forcing the issue “exposed frays among Democrats,” ABC News reported.
“To a certain extent, the vote on the Murkowski resolution is something of a preliminary test of how a climate bill will fare in the Senate, but the message is murky,” Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, told ABC News.
Those opposing EPA regulatory power over ubiquitous greenhouse gases properly argue that controlling those emissions effectively creates a new energy tax and kills jobs.
The debate featured its share of cheap, election-year theatrics. California’s Sen. Barbara Boxer, facing a serious challenge in November from Republican Carly Fiorina, brought props to make her case for EPA control, including large photos of oil-soaked birds in the Gulf of Mexico, which she contended are a consequence of reliance on carbon-emitting fuels.
Of course, that’s like pointing to a traffic accident and demanding the banishment of cars and trucks. If you need further evidence, consider: Nine of the 10 senators from the Gulf states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and — voted for Murkowski’s bill. Granted, eight of those senators are Republicans, but Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu joined five other Democrats in supporting the bill.
Boxer’s theatrics aside, senators representing the states suffering because of BP’s oil spill seem to understand the difference. The ranking environmental committee Republican, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., was closer than Boxer to the truth when he argued, “Global warming is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. … (T)here’s no relationship between this (EPA disapproval resolution) and the oil spill.”