House votes to block EPA climate regs

The House voted Thursday to block Environmental Protection Agency climate regulations, a win for Republicans who have put hobbling the agency's greenhouse gas rules at the top of their policy agenda.

But the Senate rejected the same measure Wednesday and the White House has threatened to veto the legislation, leaving the likelihood of the bill becoming law very small.

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Still, the passage of the legislation represented a symbolic victory for Republicans and some centrist Democrats, who have spent months railing against the EPA and its climate regulations. Proponents of blocking EPA climate rules have promised to make the vote a 2012 campaign issue.

The House approved the legislation in a 255-172 vote.

The GOP-backed bill, which was authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), won the support of 19 Democrats.

The wide majority of scientists say climate change is occurring and is caused in large part by human activity.

House Republicans rejected Wednesday a series of amendments proposed by Democrats, including an amendment that called on lawmakers to accept a scientific finding by EPA that climate change is occurring and that it endangers public health and welfare. They also rejected a motion to recommit offered by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) that would have prevented the legislation from affecting seniors and children.

The Upton bill is a “distraction from the imperative of developing new sources of energy that will break our dependence on foreign oil, and protect our public health and environment," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lawmakers bickered on the House floor about the bill for much of the day Wednesday.

Top Democrats blasted the legislation.

"This bill would ignore the warnings of the respected scientific community simply because policymakers don’t like what the science is telling us," Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said.

But Republicans countered that the bill is necessary to avoid major harm to the economy.

"We must stop this out-of-control EPA and that’s precisely what this bill is designed to do," said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy panels’ Energy and Power subcommittee.

Passage of the House bill comes on the heels of the Senate rejecting four amendments to small-business legislation Wednesday that would have blocked or limited EPA climate rules.

That includes an amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that is identical to the House bill.

The Senate also rejected three alternative amendments offered by Democrats that would greatly limit EPA’s climate authority (more on that here, here and here).

Despite the failure of the four amendments, Republicans in the Senate claimed victory, arguing that a total of 64 lawmakers voted in favor of at least one of the amendments. They also noted that 17 Democrats support one or more of the amendments.

But Republicans can pursue other ways of blocking EPA's climate rules. Some Republicans are looking to spending bills to at least temporarily prevent the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.