House votes to overturn Obama’s climate rule

House votes to overturn Obama’s climate rule
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The House voted Tuesday to overturn President Obama’s sweeping climate change regulations for power plants in a largely symbolic move.

The mostly party-line 242-180 vote came on the second day of a two-week climate change conference in Paris. 

The legislation would block the main pillar of Obama’s climate agenda and of his pledge to the international community for the accord world leaders are writing in Paris.

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Tuesday’s vote sends the measure to Obama’s desk, after the Senate passed the legislation in November. The president has promised a veto to protect his climate priorities.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the rule in August, mandating a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, the first limits on greenhouse gases for power plants.

It’s expected to significantly hurt the coal industry, though the EPA says it will save consumers money on their electricity bills.

The measure was passed as a resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which allows for a streamlined process for Congress to overturn major regulations.

Lawmakers also voted 235-188 to block a parallel EPA regulation setting limits on carbon emissions from newly built power plants that use coal or natural gas. That rule would require technology on coal plants to significant curtail carbon output, which the industry says would all but prevent new plants.

Both votes are a piece of the GOP’s attempts to undermine the Paris climate talks by showing that his emissions cuts do not enjoy support at home from Congress or the American public.

While Republicans know they can do little to stop the rules while Obama holds the veto pen, they feel that sending a strong signal against climate action is important.

“What the heck? This is all done in the name of climate change. Climate change has happened since God created our Earth,” said Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas).

Earlier Tuesday, Obama sought to reassure leaders that the Republicans’ actions against his climate agenda do not effect his pledges.

“My expectation is that we will absolutely be able to meet our commitments,” he told reporters in Paris shortly before leaving the conference.

“This is part of American leadership,” he said. “Because we’re the largest country, because we have the most powerful military, we should welcome the fact that we’re going to do more — and oftentimes we’re going to do it first.”

The day before, White House press secretary Josh Earnest mocked the GOP’s unwillingness to back Obama on climate.

“We’re well aware of the fact that there is an abiding hostility in the Republican conference to facts and science and evidence,” he said.

While the legislation has no chance of overturning the rule, opponents are also fighting against it in court. Republicans argue that the Obama administration exceeded its authority in issuing the regulations.

“The final rules regarding emissions from new and existing power plants are a clear executive overreach,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.).

Twenty-seven states have joined dozens of business groups and energy interests in asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to stop the rule’s implementation. Judges will decide as early as next month whether to temporarily block it while the litigation proceeds.

Considering the stakes of the fight over the rule, the litigation is almost certain to reach the Supreme Court.