Senate votes to strike down Obama’s climate rules

 Senate votes to strike down Obama’s climate rules
© Getty Images

The Senate voted Tuesday to block a pair of regulations representing the central pillars of President Obama’s climate change initiative. 

The votes approving resolutions under the Congressional Review Act come less than two weeks before Obama and other world leaders meet in Paris to agree to a worldwide pact to fight global warming.

The votes are symbolic, since Obama would veto the resolutions and supporters do not have the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers to override the vetoes.

ADVERTISEMENT
Senators voted 52-46 to stop the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants, which mandate a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon emissions by 2030. The move to block the related carbon rule for newly built power plants passed by the same vote.

Together, the regulations are the biggest part of Obama’s pledge going into the talks to reduce the United States’ greenhouse gases 26 percent to 28 percent.

Obama pledged to veto the Senate’s measures. But Republicans said it is nonetheless important to take a stand against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“If the administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan moves forward, hardship will be felt all across the country. Fewer job opportunities, higher power bills, and less reliable electricity will result,” Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP may increase IRS’s budget People with addiction issues should be able to control their own health data Trump signs bipartisan bill to combat synthetic opioids MORE (R-W.Va.) — who sponsored the legislation on the existing plant rule out of concern for West Virginia’s coal-dependent economy — said on the Senate floor.

“Congress should pass this resolution and place this critical issue squarely on the president’s desk,” she said. “America’s economic future is at stake here, and it is time to send a clear signal that enough is enough.”

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota GOP's Cramer won't run for ND Senate seat GOP Rep. Cramer 'trending' toward ND Senate run MORE (D-N.D.), who also sponsored Capito’s resolution, said the EPA’s rule threatens to harm electricity reliability so much that Americans could not be sure their lights would turn on.

“The one thing that we do is that when you reach over to turn on a light switch in the United States of America, the lights come on. And it doesn’t matter what time of the day,” she said, adding that the EPA rule would make that more difficult.

The White House said Obama would veto the measures, saying they would threaten billions of dollars of benefits to public health and the environment from the regulations.

“Most importantly, the resolution would impede efforts to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest source of carbon pollution in the country — when the need to act, and to act quickly, to mitigate climate change impacts on American communities has never been more clear,” the White House said of the existing plant measure, with a similar statement on the other resolution.

Democrats largely agreed, and they criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.) for bringing it to the floor instead of more pressing matters, like funding homeland security.

“I find it really hard to comprehend that a majority of this senate led by my Republican friends would side with the special interests above the people who simply want to breathe clean air, who simply want to see us dedicated to the fight against climate change,” said Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Billionaire Steyer to push for Dem House push Billionaire Steyer announces million for Dem House push MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

She asked why McConnell would bring up the resolutions after last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris “instead of taking up that budget agreement and looking in a bipartisan way at every single agency ... that we fund to make sure they are doing everything to keep America safe?”

“This is an historic debate,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals Dems say they have 50 votes in Senate to overrule net neutrality repeal MORE (D-Mass.) said earlier Tuesday. “It basically boils down to whether or not in the 21st century the United States is going to be leader in the clean energy revolution … or we are still going to be tied to 19th-century technologies like coal.”

The rules, which were made final in August, are also under litigation after various states and dozens of energy companies and groups sued in federal court to stop it.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to vote Wednesday on that chamber’s versions of both resolutions.

Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems search for winning playbook GOP anxious with Trump on trade Blue wave of 2018 stops in Indiana and Missouri MORE (D-Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE (D-W.Va.) joined Heitkamp to buck their party and vote for the resolutions.

Send. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (R-N.H.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (R-Maine) and Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (R-Ill.) voted with the Democrats against the measures.