Greenwire: Inhofe sees cuts to climate programs as major revenue source
July 18, 2012
Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov
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Inhofe sees cuts to climate programs as major revenue source
Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
As lawmakers haggle over how to prevent $1.2 trillion in defense and nondefense spending cuts from going into effect in January, one senior senator says the answer is simple.
"If you're trying to come up with money, there are two big targets out there," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters yesterday at the Capitol. "One is repeal Obamacare. The other is repeal all of the efforts [the Obama administration is] doing covertly on their climate agenda."
Inhofe pointed again to a Congressional Research Service report released in April that showed that from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2012, agencies across the federal government have spent $68.4 billion on climate-change-related projects. The Department of Defense also spent $4 billion of its budget on efficiency measures during the same years, the report says.
"Now you're talking about big money," said Inhofe, adding that the funds would have been better spent to help hold the Defense Department harmless for its share of the budget cuts.
"How many more Humvees we could have had, how many more strike vehicles and all that if we weren't spending money on [Obama's] climate agenda?" he said.
The CRS report emphasizes that many of the programs Inhofe cited existed before they were classified as climate related. Eighty percent of the funding went to the Energy Department for technology development and deployment. More than one-third was appropriated as part of the 2009 economic stimulus bill.
The report also includes more than a year of spending under President George W. Bush, though climate-related projects saw their budgets increase after President Obama came to office.
Inhofe said voters would be surprised to hear Obama has spent so much on climate change after he failed to pass a comprehensive climate change bill.
"It's an issue against him because he's doing what he couldn't do through legislation," he said.
Inhofe added that some of his Republican colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the Oklahoman serves as ranking member, might join him in proposing to offset the defense cuts by eliminating climate-related programs.
"I think we'll talk about incrementally, where do we come up with this money?" he said. "One thing we do is undo what [Obama] has done because Congress won't let him do it."
Inhofe said he might try to use the Congressional Review Act to knock down U.S. EPA's proposed greenhouse gas rule for new power plants when it is finalized. Inhofe sponsored a similar resolution last month targeting EPA's mercury rule, but it fell four votes short of the 50 needed to clear the chamber. A resolution on the greenhouse gas rule would "start off with the same numbers," he said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who once offered her own resolution of disapproval to prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, said the Congressional Review Act strategy seemed unlikely to succeed.
"But that doesn't mean that we don't take them up," she said. "Because I do think that does allow for discussion on an important issue."
The annual appropriations process offers another option for stalling EPA's carbon rules, but Murkowski said chances were "slim" that a policy rider would survive House-Senate negotiations.
Murkowski said she was frustrated that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that the Senate would not pass any appropriations bills before the November elections.
"So we have a bill, but what can we do with it?" she said. "This is crazy around here."