Contact: Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

 Inhofe Urges Obama to Focus on Gulf Spill, Not Cap-and-Trade

Inhofe Floor Speech - June 14, 2010

As Prepared for Delivery

I want to speak today on where I think the cap-and-trade debate is heading after last Thursday's vote on the Murkowski resolution.  We got a very clear signal in today's Politico, which reported that President Obama, in his Oval Office address tomorrow night, will seek as part of the response to the BP spill to "put a price on carbon."

Of course, "putting a price on carbon" is Washington-speak for cap-and-trade.   This is remarkable: here we have the most significant environmental disaster in our nation's history, and the President decides now is the time for cap-and-trade, a massive new energy tax, paid for by consumers, working families, farmers, and small businesses; a massive new energy tax that will destroy millions of jobs, in good measure by sending many of them to places like China and India; a massive new energy tax that would make a gallon of gasoline more expensive; and a massive new energy tax that won't do a thing to stop global warming, but will increase the size of government and give more money for politicians to spend. 

Just how that will contain the spill, mitigate the environmental damage, and help those immediately affected by it remains a mystery.  Put simply, it won't do any of those things.  But it will damage the economy and make it harder to deal with this crisis.

We have a serious incident on our hands.  People died, people's economic livelihoods are at stake, and the environment is being harmed.  But instead of Presidential leadership and clear direction, we're getting pure partisan politics.  One glaring example is President Obama's moratorium on deepwater drilling, something environmental groups have sought for years.  This is an exercise in overreach that will do far more harm than good.  The Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimates that the President's moratorium  would kill 3,000 to 6,000 Louisiana jobs in the next few weeks and over 10,000 Louisiana jobs in the next few months.  More than 20,000 jobs are at risk over the next 12 to 18 months.

Instead of Presidential leadership, we're getting empty political rhetoric of the worst kind.  A case in point came last week.  We heard that the Murkowski resolution is a "Big Oil bailout" that will allow oil companies such as BP to pollute the air.  That must be news to the thousands of groups across the country that supported the Murkowski resolution.   Here's a list of just a few:

- The American Association of Housing Services for the Aging

- Family Dairies USA

- The Farm Bureau

- The National Federation of Independent Business

- The Brick Industry Association

- The National Association of Manufacturers

- Associated Builders and Contractors

- The American Health Care Association

- The Arkansas Rice Federation

- The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce

- The Ohio Trucking Association

- Governors of 21 states 

Do some members really believe that these groups have been duped, that what they are really supporting is nothing more than a sop to BP and Big Oil? 

I'm confident we'll keep hearing this refrain as we inch closer to November.  The Politico story I mentioned reported on a recent survey by Joel Benenson, President Obama's campaign pollster.  The survey was conducted for the League of Conservation Voters.  Among other things, Mr. Benenson found that, based on his interpretation of the survey results, pushing for cap-and-trade and tying opposition to it to Big Oil will be a "potent political weapon" for Democrats to wield against Republicans this fall.

We should be capping that well, not the economy.  But apparently, the President sees it differently.  I suppose some of this was driven by last week's 47 to 53 vote on the motion to proceed to the Murkowski resolution.  Yes, the motion to proceed failed-but the President shouldn't let those numbers obscure the hard political reality: there is a bipartisan majority in the US Senate that supports either a delay of, or an outright ban on, the Obama EPA's job-killing global warming agenda.

Yet the reason EPA's unfolding regulatory barrage can continue is that a deal was cut just prior to the vote.  It was exposed in a front-page story in The Hill the day of the vote.  Here's the Hill:

"Democratic leaders are scrambling to prevent the Senate from delivering a stinging slap to President Barack Obama on climate change. They have offered a vote on a bill they dislike in the hopes of avoiding a loss on legislation Obama hates. The president is threatening to veto a resolution from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would ban the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon emissions. But if the president were forced to use his veto to prevent legislation emerging from a Congress in which his own party enjoys substantial majorities, it would be a humiliation for him and for Democrats on Capitol Hill. So Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democratic leaders are doing what they can to stop it. They are floating the possibility of voting on an alternative measure from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from the coal state of West Virginia, which they previously refused to grant floor time, Senate sources say."

It appears that at least 7 Democrats took the deal offered to them by Sen. Reid. If these 7 senators had voted for the motion to proceed to Senator Murkowski's resolution, the motion to proceed not only would have passed, it would have passed handily.

Remember, the Rockefeller bill requires 60 votes to pass, not 51-the threshold required under the Congressional Review Act, which is what Sen. Murkowski proposed.  We will work hard to get the 60 votes we need to pass Rockefeller.  But getting 60 votes in the Senate is difficult, to be sure.  One could argue that these 7 members, who should have voted for Murkowski, will get cover for their vote by voting for Rockefeller, because it may not pass. 

This is an interesting deal.  It looks as if Democratic leaders, to ensure that EPA can micromanage farms and other sources, had to develop a scheme to give cover to Democrat members who oppose the EPA takeover. 

I want to emphasize that I believe these 7 members are conflicted about what to do.  I think they understand the economic harm that an unfettered EPA bureaucracy could mean for their constituents: fewer jobs, more regulations, higher taxes, and a slower economy.  But they were pressured by the President and the base of the Democratic Party-they were warned against defying the President on one of his top initiatives.  So they turned to the Rockefeller bill as an alternative.  It was the two-year delay of Rockefeller-rather than overturning the endangerment finding-that seemed more politically acceptable. 

But this is not the end of the road.  As I see it, the Rockefeller bill should not be used as political cover.  It's an alternative means of achieving a similar goal as that sought by Sen. Murkowski: to stop EPA from deciding our nation's energy policy.   We may get a vote on Rockefeller one way or another.  And if it happens, I trust these 7 members-and possibly others who voted ‘no' on the motion to proceed to Murkowski-will vote with their constituents for Rockefeller and against EPA taking jobs, businesses, and energy out of our struggling economy. 

That will be a critically important vote, because this is not an academic debate. EPA's growing regulatory regime will lead to one of the greatest bureaucratic intrusions into the lives of the American people.  Peter Glaser, an attorney with Troutman Sanders, and one of the foremost Clean Air Act attorneys in the country, said that EPA's endangerment finding will lead to federal regulation of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, commercial buildings, churches, restaurants, hotels, malls, colleges and universities, food processing facilities, farms, sports arenas, soda manufacturers, bakers, brewers, wineries, and many others. 

We didn't get to this point overnight; this debate over the endangerment finding has deep historical roots.  It began even before the Murkowski resolution was introduced in January.  It really began with the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, back in 1989.  Over time, the debate reached several important political and legal milestones, several of which include:

  • The Senate's 95 to 0 Byrd-Hagel vote against the Kyoto Protocol in July 1997;
  • The Kyoto Protocol's adoption by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 1997;
  • Defeat of McCain-Lieberman in 2003;
  • Defeat of McCain-Lieberman in 2005;
  • The Supreme Court's 5 to 4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007;
  • Defeat of Lieberman-Warner in 2008;

The endangerment finding, finalized this year, has far-reaching implications for how we use energy, how this country is governed, how businesses are regulated and controlled, and how we conduct our daily lives. 

Make no mistake: despite testimony to the contrary by senior officials, the Obama Administration was not forced by the Supreme Court to choose endangerment.  As I noted, they had a choice, and they made the wrong choice. 

That choice, of course, was based on flawed scientific conclusions.  During the debate on the Murkowski resolution last week, I spoke briefly about the collapse of the science behind catastrophic global warming theory.  But I said the debate was not about science; rather, it was about stopping job-killing regulations. There is no doubt there is a wide spectrum of belief about the science, even in the Republican Party, but I am pleased that last week we stood united in standing up for protecting American jobs. We all agreed that EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is a monumental mistake that will shackle the American economy with bureaucracy and higher energy taxes. 

I think Democratic leaders understand this-or at least they know the political consequences of what they're proposing.  That's evident by the amusing fact that the term "cap-and-trade" has become so toxic that Democratic leaders refuse to acknowledge it. 

Just last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We don't use the word 'cap and trade'...That's something that's been deleted from my dictionary."  And Roll Call reported last week that Democrats in the House said much the same thing: "Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) bristled at a question about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) declaration that the House's cap-and-trade energy proposal is dead. The House passed a bill that includes the proposal last year, but the issue has stalled in the Senate. ‘That's not the bill that they have in the Senate," Pelosi told reporters. "They don't have a cap-and-trade bill. That's not the bill they have in the Senate.'"

Of course, it wasn't too long ago that the author of the cap-and-trade bill in the Senate tried to suggest his bill wasn't cap and trade either, saying, "I don't know what 'cap and trade' means. I don't think the average American does,' adding, "This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it's a pollution reduction bill.'"

In fact, when Senators Kerry and Lieberman finally did introduce their bill, we soon learned that it was worse than cap-and-trade: it was cap-and-trade with a gas tax, written by none other than BP.

No matter the semantic games employed, or the post-modern denial of ‘the truth', in which words can mean whatever one chooses, "putting a price on carbon" means cap-and-trade. And cap-and-trade will mean more job losses, more pain at the pump, and higher food and electricity prices for consumers.

Now it is worth briefly noting-again-the flaws of the science on which EPA's endangerment is based.  Lisa Jackson, President Obama's EPA Administrator, has admitted-and EPA's endangerment finding makes clear-that EPA's finding is based in good measure on the conclusions of the UN's IPCC.  EPA apparently accepted those findings without any serious, independent analysis to see whether they were true.

I have spent the past two years speaking out against an unprecedented liberal agenda coming out of Washington. I have spoken out against out-of-control spending, increased government intervention into our daily lives, the gutting of our national defense, and the costly global warming agenda.

Today as the American people continue to face high unemployment and a struggling economy, we must remain focused on finding every opportunity to stand on the side of the American worker.  That means standing against cap-and-trade and the Obama EPA.

Finally, we can't let the President parley the Gulf tragedy into passing his cap-and-trade energy tax.  He should know that the tax is totally unrelated to stopping the spill and helping the people in the Gulf.  It's time for the President to show real leadership and propose real solutions to real problems.