Senate rejects block to EPA climate regs

The Senate rejected a GOP-backed amendment Wednesday that would have permanently blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

The amendment did not reach the 60 votes necessary for passage. The final vote count was 50-50.

Notably, the amendment did not receive enough votes for Republicans to be able to say that the majority of the Senate wants to block EPA climate rules, as they had hoped.

But Republicans quickly noted that a majority of senators, 64 in total, voted for one of four amendments to block or limit EPA climate regulations.

The amendment won the support of four Democrats, including Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.). One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), voted against the amendment.

The Senate also rejected on Wednesday three alternative amendments offered by Democrats that would limit, rather than eliminate, EPA’s authority to issue climate regulations. See more on those amendments here, here and here.

The White House applauded the Senate's rejection of the amendments.

"By rejecting efforts to rollback EPA's common-sense steps to safeguard Americans from harmful pollution, the Senate also rejected an approach that would have increased the nation's dependence on oil, contradicted the scientific consensus on global warming, and jeopardized America's ability to lead the world in the clean energy economy," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "The Clean Air Act is a vital tool in protecting our families — particularly children — from a wide variety of harmful pollutants that cause asthma and lung disease, and the administration remains committed to protecting this important law."

Republicans dismissed the Democratic amendments as “cover votes” Wednesday.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the author of the legislation, said Wednesday on the Senate floor that vulnerable Democrats who vote for the alternatives will face “huge problems” in their home states. 

The Republican amendment to small-business legislation, which was offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. 

The amendment mirrors a bill introduced by Inhofe. Companion legislation is being considered on the House floor Wednesday.

The bill is expected to easily pass the House.