Obama toughens up on climate

Obama toughens up on climate
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President Obama has doubled down on his climate change and energy policies over the last three months, further stoking a fire with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Days after the GOP dominated the midterm elections, Obama unveiled an ambitious agreement with the Chinese to scale back greenhouse gas emissions.

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Since then, there’s been no stop as Obama has unleashed a new wave of actions centered around combating climate change. 

Jim Manley, a former aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidReid pushes back on Sanders suggestion that a Democrat with plurality of delegates should be the nominee Harry Reid on 'Medicare for All': 'Not a chance in hell it would pass' The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms MORE (D-Nev.), said it’s become evident that Obama will not be ignored on anything, least of all global warming.

“After the election he issued the executive order on immigration, which for many, that was a sign that he was going to insist on being relevant and having an offense,” Manley said.  

“He continues to embrace an aggressive agenda when it comes to the environment. He's made it very clear that a major part of his legacy is dealing with climate change.”

In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved on a long-awaited update to ozone pollution standards, which cut the allowable threshold for the ground-level smog to between 60 parts per million and 75 parts per million.

And over the last six weeks the administration has floated guidelines for federal agencies to weigh climate change impacts when reviewing energy and infrastructure projects, and released first-ever regulations on methane emissions from industrial sources.

The battle over building the Keystone XL pipeline has intensified since the midterms.

Obama drew a tougher line days after the elections, arguing it would not have even “a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.” On the day the Senate GOP took over, he threatened to veto legislation approving it.

“If this bill passes this Congress the president wouldn't sign it,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (Ky.) is intent on sending legislation to Obama’s desk and has made Keystone the Senate’s first point of business. 

He and other GOP leaders erupted at the veto threat, questioning the president's willingness to work with them in his final years in office.

“The takeaway is that the president is not going to set the agenda for us here in the Senate. We have an agenda we believe can help save and create jobs for Americans,” McConnell said.

Carol Browner, the former climate director under the Obama administration, said Republicans shouldn’t be surprised by Obama.

She said he has been “clear” from the beginning that he sees climate change as part of his legacy.

“When it comes to Congress he is saying 'you guys want to do this a different way, here is what I'm doing and I have the authority to do it,' ” Browner said. “And there is frustration there.”

McConnell hopes to attack Obama’s regulations on climate change by using the appropriations process. He thinks it will be difficult for the White House to resist spending bills that include language carving up the climate change rules.

“The real battle will be over appropriations bills,” Manley said.

And Manley said McConnell may be able to get some Democrats on board, namely Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Overnight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE (N.D.).

“Some of these will get some Democrat votes, no doubt about it. But in the by-and-by most will find them objectionable,” he said.

McConnell is working to paint an image of the new GOP majority as one that is passing bills and is willing to compromise by bringing a return to regular order and an open amendment process.

“The Senate is out of practice here,” McConnell said this week. “We are trying to gin up business.”

McConnell has promised to keep a loose grip on the floor, restoring the power of individual senators to the process.

And he and other GOP leaders are ready for a clash with Obama.

“The president has failed his first big test when it comes to working with the Congress for the American people,” the third-ranking Senate Republican John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills Senate votes to rein in Trump's power to attack Iran As many as eight GOP senators expected to vote to curb Trump's power to attack Iran MORE (S.D.) said this week.

But the White House isn’t signaling shyness about the fight. 

“We know that there will be attempts to impede or scale back our actions,” said one White House official.

“The president is fully committed to implementing his Climate Action Plan, which uses long-standing executive authorities to cut carbon pollution, build resilience in American communities already feeling the impacts of climate change, and to lead on the international stage. We will continue to move forward on this vital issue,” the official added.