GOP readies assault on Obama’s climate agenda

GOP readies assault on Obama’s climate agenda

Senate Republicans are poised to launch a series of attacks aimed squarely at President Obama’s climate change initiative, as the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward this summer with a host of new regulations.

Legislation coming before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday would effectively block the EPA’s latest proposal, a rule defining which waterways it can regulate.

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“I expect that we will successfully get it out of committee tomorrow, and we’re going to continue to move forward,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoPruitt to testify on EPA agenda at House, Senate hearings Overnight Energy: Senate confirms top EPA air regulator | Feds to roll back emissions rule for big trucks | Defense bill mandates climate study Senate confirms top air regulator at EPA MORE (R-Wyo.), the bill’s sponsor, said Tuesday. “This is a significant overreach by the White House and the administration.”

Barrasso’s bill would force the withdrawal of the Waters of the United States rule and give the EPA instructions for rewriting it, a move that would essentially limit the number of waterways the agency is able to regulate.

The water rule, unveiled last month, represents the first in a spate of major regulations due out in the coming months. Rules placing new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from both new and existing power plants are under White House review now and should be released before the fall.

The agency has said it will also finalize a rule on ozone levels this year, despite fierce critics from business groups that say the regulation would be the most expensive ever enacted.

Senate Republicans have drafted plans to stop many of the regulations, as they look to beat back the president’s climate change push and fulfill campaign promises made in the months before they seized control of the upper chamber in November.

Following the election, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE pledged “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”

McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t released a schedule for bringing EPA bills to the floor, though several are in the pipeline.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoOvernight Finance: Senate tax bill will include ObamaCare mandate repeal | Stock surge raises pressure for GOP to deliver tax reform | Ryan hints at short-term spending bill | House votes to overhaul federal flood insurance GOP senator: Congress may ‘stumble’ on paying for Trump's infrastructure plan Overnight Tech: Dems want FCC chair investigated over Sinclair merger | Google faces state antitrust probe | Qualcomm rejects Broadcom offer | Startups criticize plan to tax employees' stocks MORE (R-W.Va.), for instance, has introduced a bill blocking the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, a measure that Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators tear into controversial Trump environment nominee McCain backs Pentagon nominee despite concerns over defense industry ties GOP senators ask Trump for meeting on biofuels mandate MORE (R-Okla.) and McConnell support. She said Tuesday she hopes to move the bill before August.

“I think it’s pretty clear that when they say it’s a straight-out environmental agenda, that doesn’t take into account the economic impacts across the states, basically pursuing policies that’s picking winners and losers in this country,” Capito said of the EPA’s rule-making.

“The heartland, where West Virginia is, and most especially West Virginia, I think has already suffered great job loss, and it’s going to get worse.” 

Republicans have looked for Democratic allies in their fight against the EPA, and they’ve found at least a few. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Overnight Finance: House passes sweeping tax bill in huge victory for GOP | Senate confirms banking regulator | Mulvaney eyed for interim head of consumer agency Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog MORE (D-W.Va.) has sponsored both Capito’s and Barrasso’s bills; Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDemocrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Overnight Finance: House passes sweeping tax bill in huge victory for GOP | Senate confirms banking regulator | Mulvaney eyed for interim head of consumer agency Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog MORE (D-N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDemocrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Indiana Dems: GOP has double standard on donations from alleged assaulters GOP campaign committees call on Democrats to return Franken donations MORE (D-Ind.) have signed on to Barrasso’s bill. 

Republicans will need significant Democratic support to overcome both a potential filibuster in the Senate and likely vetoes from Obama, if the bills get that far. An Inhofe aide said the committee is working toward a veto-proof majority for Barrasso’s bill.

In the House, Republicans have taken an aggressive approach to the EPA as well. Lawmakers passed legislation in April to stop the water rule, which bill sponsor Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said would “increase confusion, increase uncertainty, increase lawsuits, and open up just about any water or wet area to federal regulation.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has scheduled votes on two bills designed to block EPA rules this month. In a memo to members in late May, he said the bills, which would undo the Clean Power Plan and coal ash regulations, would “protect consumers from burdensome and costly EPA regulations, keep the decision power in the hands of the states, and help modernize outdated laws.”

The House Appropriations Committee released an Interior and Environment spending bill Tuesday that would block potential EPA rule-making on everything from the power plant regulations to oversight of lead in fishing tackle. McConnell has previously endorsed using appropriations riders to target EPA policies where possible. 

The EPA, for its part, has defended its rule-making as both necessary and legal — and within the purview Congress has assigned it.

“Clean air and clean water should not be a political issue,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said. 

“All sides of the aisle want a clean and safe planet for their children and future generations. We are just doing our jobs — as Congress has directed us, and as courts have affirmed for us — to protect public health and the environment.”