Senators mull options after failed EPA votes

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters after the votes that they together “acknowledged that EPA ...  is a very real source of problems within industry as far as it relates to the economy, and we need to do something about it.”

“I think you will see an effort in the future. How that comes about remains to be seen,” Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in the Capitol. “I don’t know the vehicle, I don’t know the format, but we are not done with it, that is for sure.”

She noted that Republicans want to permanently thwart the rules, but acknowledged that “you have got to be pragmatic in this process as well.”

It's far from certain whether Democratic leadership has the appetite for allowing more votes on the matter.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) — who backed Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) failed amendment to limit the rules’ scope — said the Senate should move on.

Move on to what? “Hopefully to an energy plan that actually resolves this issue once and for all instead of the political games we are playing,” Begich said in the Capitol. He spoke to reporters before the votes but it was clear that none of the amendments would pass.

Begich supports crafting energy legislation that preempts EPA’s rules while promoting low-carbon technologies and domestic oil-and-gas drilling.

Environmental groups cheered the defeat of the measures, but League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said he expects continued battles.

“Sadly big oil and their friends in Congress won’t go away in trying to destroy EPA and its ability to protect public health, but it’s a good sign that not a single amendment got a majority of the Senate,” he said.

Republicans are also seeking to delay EPA rules through spending bills.

The American Petroleum Institute — a powerful oil industry trade group — echoed Republicans in calling the sum of the votes a signal that EPA should not be allowed to go forward. “Today’s votes show that a growing bipartisan coalition recognizes that Congress, not unelected agency officials, should be setting the energy and economic policy of the United States,” API President Jack Gerard said in a statement.

But several Democrats lauded the defeat of the measures. “Today, the Senate stood up for children and families by defeating four amendments that would have interfered with EPA’s efforts to protect the health and safety of the American public,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, in a statement.


—This post was updated at 7:01 p.m.