GAO shuts down McConnell's push to block EPA carbon reg

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Thursday that if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump Pelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump Reid: Groping accusations show Trump’s ‘sickness’ MORE (R-Ky.) wants to block the Obama administration's carbon limits for new power plants, it can't be through the Congressional Review Act.

The GAO said that under the act, the agency can't trigger a review on a proposed rule — the rule must first be finalized.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed its rule to limit carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants in January, but it isn't expected to be finalized until sometime next year.

McConnell filed a resolution of disapproval under the review act with 40 other Republicans a week later, sending a letter to the GAO's comptroller general.

In the letter, McConnell argued that the EPA rule contained an unusual provision that creates an immediate level effect upon its proposal.

But the GAO opinion issued Thursday says that's not the case.

In cases where the review act comes into play, when an agency like the EPA is issuing information to states, they are "final actions with certain binding effect," and the proposal did not do this.

While the review act would have fast tracked congressional consideration to block the rule, McConnell can still find other avenues to stop the EPA's actions, the GAO said.

"While Leader McConnell was disappointed by the GAO ruling, he will continue to use every possible tool at his disposal to protect American families from the President’s costly over-regulation and devastating 'war on coal,'" said McConnell spokesman Michael Brumas.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also weighed in on the GAO's ruling, calling it the right decision.

"The Congressional Review Act was not intended to cover proposed rules because it would be so disruptive to the regulatory process," Boxer said in a statement.  "GAO’s legal opinion ensures that the public will be able to comment and fully participate in the rulemaking process, including the President’s proposals on limiting dangerous carbon pollution.”