Rockefeller blasts McConnell EPA amendment

The bill, authored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), has been offered as an amendment to small-business legislation by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Obama administration officials have said the president will veto a bill that blocks the agency’s climate authority.

“The total elimination of EPA’s role with no other structure in place is irresponsible, unrealistic and immature,” said Rockefeller, who himself has criticized the EPA in the past. “It’s crazy.”

“Eviscerating the EPA’s ability to do its job forever is nonsense, childlike,” the West Virginia senator added.

The McConnell amendment was slated to come up for a floor vote this week, but the vote has been delayed over a disagreement between leadership and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) over his amendment to eliminate ethanol tax breaks.

Democrats have offered three alternatives to the McConnell amendment that would limit, rather than permanently eliminate, EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Rockefeller’s bill to delay EPA rules by two years is one of those amendments.

Rockefeller urged lawmakers to support his proposal to delay EPA climate regulations by two years, arguing that it has the best chance of being signed into law by President Obama.

But, in an interview with The Hill after his floor speech, Rockefeller suggested his bill may not be able to garner the 60 votes necessary for passage. He said his bill had broad Republican support until lawmakers rallied around the Inhofe bill.

“It had 60 votes until they all walked,” Rockefeller said. “It was a political decision, and so obviously I won’t do as well. But if they think theirs is going to pass the Senate and then get past the president’s desk, it’s a fantasy.”

Still, Rockefeller said he expected to get a vote on his amendment to the small-business bill.