House lawsuit reveals GOP's empty 'climate change' bluster

When Speaker John Boehner (R-ohio) announced that he would move legislation authorizing a lawsuit against the President for his so-called imperious actions, the Speaker cited energy along with health care as the reasons for the suit.  But now that the House of Representatives is considering a resolution authorizing the lawsuit, it’s easy to see that the lawsuit is glaringly disconnected from the rhetoric about energy. 

Since 2011, we’ve heard repeated assertions about the administration’s overreach on climate change.  House Republicans have described the administration’s actions as “radical,” “illegal,” and “overreaching.”  When the administration worked with the auto industry to cut carbon pollution and save new car owners thousands of dollars at the pump, House Republicans called it “executive overreach.”  When the administration took steps to address pollution from coal, a House Republican said it was an “Imperial Presidency that is out of control.”  When the Office of Management and Budget said it was appropriate to make note of the adverse impacts of carbon pollution, one House Republican claimed it was an “arbitrary, backdoor approach to regulating carbon dioxide emissions.” 

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In justifying his lawsuit, Boehner argued in an op-ed that the president has not faithfully executed the law as it relates to energy regulations and has “overstepped his authority under the Constitution.” 

With so many claims of overreach of executive authority relating to climate change, surely we could expect the House Republicans’ lawsuit to attempt to curb these alleged abuses.  But when the House finally showed its cards, we see they have nothing.  The House resolution makes no legal claim whatsoever relating to climate change or energy.  It doesn’t address energy regulations or carbon pollution; it’s silent on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With such strong rhetoric, why is there no substance to back it up?  The reason couldn’t be simpler or more obvious.  The administration’s common sense actions on climate change have not exceeded its legal authority. 

Just look at what the courts are saying.  When industry argued that there just wasn’t an adequate record to support EPA’s determination that carbon pollution-caused climate change was threatening the public’s health, the D.C. Court of Appeals found the argument had no merit and that EPA was supported by “an ocean of evidence.”  Then, when industry attacked EPA’s regulation of cars and trucks, the court found that “EPA’s Interpretation of the governing Clean Air Act provisions is unambiguously correct.”  And most recently, when the electric utilities argued that EPA couldn’t regulate carbon pollution from power plants, the Supreme Court rejected their argument.  Seven out of nine Supreme Court justices have now recognized that the Clean Air Act authorizes EPA to set standards for carbon pollution.

Many have described the House Republican lawsuit as meritless and a waste of time and taxpayer resources, but it does serve one important service; it reveals the weakness and emptiness of the congressional Republican rhetoric we’ve heard for years on climate change. 

Dotson is the vice president for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive advocacy organization.