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Republicans see inevitable win in EPA fight (PoliticoPro)
March 28, 2011

Posted by Matt Dempsey

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Republicans see inevitable win in EPA fight

By Robin Bravender 

3/28/11 5:37 AM EDT

Link to Article

For Senate Republicans, even a loss is a win on a vote to reject the Obama administration’s climate rules.

A GOP-led effort to kill the EPA’s climate regulations is slated for a Senate vote this week, although it isn’t expected to get very far.

But even as Democrats scramble to defeat the measure with their own proposals, Republicans say they’re well on their way to an eventual victory.

The Republican proposal is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to become part of pending small-business legislation. But Democratic leaders are also expected to fall short with two competing proposals, aimed at allowing more than a dozen politically vulnerable Democrats to take a milder slap at the EPA without altogether rebuking the White House.

Either way, Republicans are eager to get Democrats on the record opposing the administration’s climate policies.

“What is clear is that Democrats themselves are looking for ways to be on the opposite side of the administration’s agenda,” said Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Inhofe and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have offered a proposal that would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

As alternatives, Democrats are offering an amendment from Montana Sen. Max Baucus that would exempt agriculture and small industrial facilities from climate rules, and another from West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller that would impose a two-year timeout on regulations of stationary sources.

The Baucus and Rockefeller alternatives “are being used by Democrats as political cover,” Dempsey said. “So the question will eventually become, 'Do these Democrats actually want to stop the [Obama] agenda, or do they just want to talk about it?'”

Meanwhile, the House is expected to pass a stand-alone bill to throttle the EPA rules, so the issue isn’t likely to go away any time soon, even if the Senate rejects the McConnell-Inhofe rider this week. Republican supporters of the EPA limits have vowed to try to bring up similar legislation at every opportunity, and the issue is likely to be a thorn in the side of Democrats on future spending bills and other must-pass measures.

Scott Segal, an industry attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani, said it’s “entirely likely” that the Republicans could eventually win a majority of Senate votes for their anti-EPA legislation. And that, he said, should tell the administration and Senate Democratic leaders that “they have a real problem, and that there’s going to need to be action taken on this problem in anticipation of the 2012 election.”

It’s unclear whether the Inhofe measure or a similar approach will ultimately be enacted, Segal said, but he and other EPA critics are confident there will be broad limitations on EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, both in terms of setting emission limits and permitting obligations.

He added that Republicans no longer take the Rockefeller delay seriously now that the GOP controls the House and EPA regulations have officially kicked in.

“I think the day has come and gone that a two-year delay is seen as a serious alternative to addressing the heart of the matter, which is EPA regulatory authority,” he said.

For their part, the White House and the environmental community have shown no willingness to compromise. White House officials have insisted they would veto any stand-alone legislation to limit EPA’s authority.

And David Hamilton, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program, said backing down isn’t an option for greens. “There is no pending approval of any weakening of EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Air Act,” he said.


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