Sunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight
McConnell amendment slows EPA regulations
The Senate passed an amendment Thursday night that makes it harder for the White House to enforce environmental regulations.
Senators voted 57-43 on the proposal by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The amendment blocks the administration from withholding highway funds if a state doesn't submit an implementation plan for a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation.
Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) switched sides and voted with Republicans.
McConnell suggested his amendment was about protecting states from EPA overreach.
"It says that Washington bureaucrats shouldn't be allowed to punish innocent Americans by threatening the roads and bridges they use," the Kentucky Republican said, "just because a citizen's state may take a wait-and-see approach ... as courts rule on EPA regulations."
McConnell added the EPA regulations "would threaten the middle class without having a meaningful impact on the global climate anyway."
The Kentucky Republican's amendment is about rule requiring states to submit implementation plans to the EPA as part of its clean-power push.
As part of the implementation plans, states are supposed to explain how they will meet EPA-calculated emission targets for a state.
Democrats, however, said McConnell's amendment would "undercut" President Obama's plan to reduce carbon emissions.
"[The amendment] seeks to undercut the president's clean-power plan to address climate change and reduce carbon pollution," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said ahead of the vote.
While the vote is nonbinding, it does get senators on the record.
Thursday's vote follows a letter McConnell sent to governors last week. He reassured governors they would be on solid legal ground if they didn't formulate plans to implement the EPA's carbon limits.
In the letter, McConnell said the EPA is overstepping its authority, adding it doesn't have the authority under the Clean Air Act to force states to take most of those actions.