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POLITICO Pro: Dems smack down Obama climate rules
April 7, 2011

Posted by Matt Dempsey

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Dems smack down Obama climate rules

By Robin Bravender and Darren Samuelsohn

4/7/11 5:41 AM EDT

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Angst over the Obama administration's environmental rules is reaching fever pitch on Capitol Hill, where even Democrats are looking to score points by smacking down the EPA.

In a series of Senate votes Wednesday on measures to block or limit EPA climate rules, 17 Democrats broke with their party to support measures to rein in one of the administration's top environmental policy initiatives. Four went so far as to side with a GOP-led effort to nullify EPA's climate rules altogether: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

In the House, meanwhile, about a dozen Democrats are expected to join a near-unanimous GOP caucus to vote for an almost identical anti-EPA bill on Thursday. In what could be a test vote for final passage, 12 Democrats broke ranks Wednesday to vote in favor of the rule to move forward with the bill, introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (D-Mich.).

Not long ago, the Obama EPA was riding high after Congress approved the agency's biggest budget in history, and agency officials were hailed for their promises to guide their policies by science, rather than politics. But that was before Republicans were swept into the House majority and made it one of their top priorities to unravel EPA rules they've deemed "job-killers."

As industry and lawmakers have assailed the EPA, and after a host of House Democrats who supported cap-and-trade legislation lost their seats last fall, Democrats in both chambers have become increasingly eager to go on the record opposing the climate regulations.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat, told POLITICO earlier this week that there's growing opinion among Democrats that EPA is becoming a "rogue agency," adding that the White House needs to take action to curb the agency's power. "I think the president's out of step on this one, and he's going to have to get his agency under control," he said.

In the Senate on Wednesday, even Democrats who are typically backers of the Obama administration - like Max Baucus of Montana, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Carl Levin of Michigan - jumped on the anti-EPA bandwagon to endorse Democratic amendments to curtail the agency's power. Those amendments were aimed at allowing vulnerable Democrats to take slaps at EPA that could protect them in upcoming elections.

EPA is faring far worse in the House, where Upton's bill would block EPA from reining in greenhouse gases while unraveling the agency's scientific finding that climate change poses a threat to public health and welfare. Three House Democrats signed on as co-sponsors: House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Dan Boren of Oklahoma.

For now, the Democrat-controlled Senate has proven a formidable obstacle for the EPA's critics - on Wednesday, the chamber headed off all four riders aimed at limiting the agency. And even some Democrats who endorsed the amendments don't seem eager to wage a war with the White House.

"I think this is probably the end of our EPA little session here," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) after the Senate rejected his amendment to stall EPA climate rules for two years. He said he had no plans to continue pushing for his bill to pass "because there's no will in there for it."

Still, he said the vote would send a message to the White House. "I think the message sort of sends itself."

And Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that while "there's some unhappiness with EPA" on Capitol Hill, "I'm not going to be pushing for another vote."

House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are insisting that they've got the administration on its heels, and touted the fact that a majority of senators voted to limit EPA in some fashion.

"A total of 64 senators voted for amendments that, in one form or another, expressed opposition to various aspects of EPA's global warming regulatory schemes," said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), author of the failed GOP amendment. "I will continue to press for votes on my legislation until we get it to the president's desk."

Inhofe told reporters the bill will be "reintroduced in the first thing it's appropriate to put it on."

For now, EPA's backers are content keeping the bill at bay in the Senate.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday applauding the chamber for defending "the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect public health under the Clean Air Act."

During the final EPA vote in the Senate, when the Inhofe amendment failed 50-50, Sen. Bernie Sanders wrapped Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a bear hug.

"I think there was a fear that the vote would worse," the Vermont independent told POLITICO. "So I suppose it is a victory. It amazes me there'd be 50 votes for it. But from what I understand, we did well that it wasn't more."

Darius Dixon and Patrick Reis contributed to this story.


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