By Ben Geman - 12/13/09 03:47 PM EST
Lawmakers at opposite poles of the congressional climate fight on Sunday offered diverging views of President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaJohn Bolton slams Obama’s ‘shameful apology tour’ Miss. governor to join lawsuit against Obama transgender policy North Korea calls Obama’s Hiroshima trip ‘childish’ MORE’s right to pledge U.S. emissions cuts at the Copenhagen talks, and whether EPA regulation is inevitable if Congress doesn’t approve climate legislation.
Sen. James InhofeJames InhofePaul blocks chemical safety bill in Senate GOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo Overnight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo MORE (R-Okla.) said Obama should not proceed with his plan to offer a provisional U.S. emissions reduction target at the international talks. U.S. officials are floating a domestic cut of 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, mirroring leading Democratic plans on Capitol Hill.
Inhofe, who calls global warming a “hoax,” debated Rep. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHonor Frank Lautenberg by protecting our kids Sanders pans chemical safety reform deal Feds fault pipeline company in California oil spill MORE (D-Mass.), who helms the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Markey co-sponsored the sweeping energy and climate bill the House narrowly approved in June.
Markey defended the White House right to offer a provisional U.S. emissions target at the talks, which are aimed at crafting a broad – though preliminary – international accord on climate change.
He cited both EPA plans to regulate under its own authority – enabled by the EPA’s “endangerment finding” earlier this month that greenhouse gases threaten human welfare – along with what he called strong prospects for final congressional action.
“Without question the president does have the authority to make a commitment. Based upon the endangerment finding combined with higher fuel economy standards and other efficiency gains we are going to make including in ... renewable electricity generation,” Markey said.
He cited the collaboration on a cap-and-trade and energy plan between Sens. John KerryJohn KerryAn all-female ticket? Not in 2016 GOP senator calls for China to crack down on illegal opioid Obamas to live in home of former Clinton press secretary: report MORE (D-Mass.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Trump: Romney 'walks like a penguin' MORE (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). He also mentioned Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP lawmaker: 'Republicans were wrong’ to block Garland Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds Senators unveil bill to overhaul apprenticeship programs MORE (R-Maine), who co-sponsored a separate climate bill with Sen. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellSenators float bipartisan wildfire bill Dems pressure Obama on vow to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees Moulitsas: Can Hillary pick Gillibrand as her veep? Yes. MORE (D-Wash.) on Friday.
“There is real momentum for a bipartisan bill to pass through the Senate,” Markey said.
Democrats in the Senate, where climate legislation is moving slowly, face a struggle to reach the needed 60 votes. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate McCain files B amendment to boost defense spending Dems to GOP: Cancel Memorial Day break MORE (D-Nev.) hopes to bring a bill to the floor in the spring.
Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, countered that climate legislation is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
Advocates of climate legislation, including Graham and Kerry, say Congress should approve legislation because it can include measures to cushion the effects of emissions cuts on American industries -- tools the EPA does not have at its disposal.
But Inhofe attacked the idea that the EPA’s endangerment finding should prod lawmakers to approve a climate plan.
“What they are trying to do is intimidate Congress into passing something,” Inhofe said.
He said the recent controversy over the state of climate-change science, stemming from now infamous e-mails among scientists hacked from a British research institute, will undercut the EPA’s ability to move ahead.
“This endangerment finding, as soon as it hits the Federal Register, there are going to be people that will be filing lawsuits,” Inhofe said.
But Markey disagreed that the EPA would be blocked from moving ahead.
“It is not a question of legislation or no legislation. It is now a question of legislation or regulation. The EPA can act,” Markey said.
“This is now something which is going to happen, and the only question now is whether or not, as you say, command-and-control of the EPA is going to be the way in which we solve the problem, or legislation that allows us to protect trade-intensive, energy-intensive industries, to protect consumers, is put in place,” Markey said.
The two lawmakers also sparred over the climate science e-mails.
Inhofe and other climate skeptics claim that emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have undermined evidence of human-induced global warming.
Markey said they do nothing to erode what are very widely shared conclusions among climate scientists – he cited the “overwhelming conclusion of scientists in the world that there is dangerous global warming.”
Inhofe, in contrast, said the messages highlight what he calls “cooked science” underlying the conclusions of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.