The bill is the latest Republican effort to fight what they say is a wave of regulations coming out of the Obama administration, which they say will make it harder for companies to maintain and create jobs. Late last month, the House approved legislation that would force the EPA to delay other rules and require an analysis of the economic impact of these rules.
During Wednesday debate, Republicans said allowing the set of EPA emissions rules known as the "cement MACT" rules could force about 20 percent of the 100 or so U.S. cement plants to close. The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), said that result would seem to go against President Obama's call for more U.S. jobs through increased infrastructure spending.
"President Obama, when he came to the joint session here recently, said he wanted to build roads and bridges and infrastructure," Sullivan said. "Well, I guess he wants to do that imported Chinese cement, not American-made cement."
Democrats rejected Republican assertions that delaying regulations would create jobs. "Jobs now is a useful canard, but this is not about jobs," argued Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).
Democrats also argued that the bill runs the risk of creating new costs to the economy in the form of new healthcare problems caused by cement plant pollution.
"If the regulation to remove mercury from cement plants, which is already 13 years overdue, is delayed for even one year, up to 2,500 hundred people will die prematurely," House Energy & Commerce Committee member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Thursday. "There will 1,700 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1,500 people will suffer heart attacks."
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) added on Wednesday that enacting the bill would lead to "an intolerable number of American babies ... born with birth defects."
The House is expected to approve another EPA bill next week: H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act. Members began debate on that bill today, but still needs to get through nearly two dozen amendments.