You may not know it, but the Senate took its first vote in quite a while yesterday on climate change issues. No, not one of the energy bills – Kerry-Lieberman’s or Lugar’s – but a resolution introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions.
Generally speaking, this is the kind of thing Congress doesn’t do, because the EPA belongs to the executive not legislative branch of government and its operations fall outside the purview of Congress (aside from oversight, of course). So to do this, Murkowski revived a rarely deployed provision of the 1996 Congressional Review Act called a resolution of disapproval that allows Congress to overturn administrative actions.
Here’s the complete text of the resolution:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (published at 74 Fed. Reg. 66496 (December 15, 2009)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.
That’s the whole thing. During floor debate, the bit that created controversy was the phrase “and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases,” which several Senators, including John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) took to mean would deny the science behind global warming. Murkowski said this is not so:
My resolution does not affect the science behind the endangerment finding, but it will prevent the finding from being enforced through economy-wide regulations.
Her goal was quite different:
We're here today to debate a policy that works against both of those goals: the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to impose economy-wide climate regulations under the Clean Air Act. The sweeping powers being pursued by the EPA are the worst possible option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
And why does she think this? Because, in her view, it could be economically ruinous:
There is no question that our recovery is still fragile and very much in doubt. It is also clear that it will take quite some time for millions of unemployed Americans to find jobs and get back on their feet again. These tough facts should encourage us to focus on policies that create jobs and reduce our debt - and at the same time, should encourage us to guard against policies that fail in either or both of those areas.
So why keep up the suspense? How did the vote go?
The Senate voted 53-47 to reject an attempt by Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, to block the E.P.A. from imposing new limits on carbon emissions based on its 2009 finding that such gases from industry, vehicles and other sources represent a threat to human health and the environment.
And it was a bipartisan vote, though not as broad as Murkowski must have hoped. She got all Republicans and six Democrats, but fell four votes short. (President Obama had indicated he would veto the resolution if it passed, so Murkowski would have had a 67 vote mountain to climb to override it.)
There may be more action along these lines – non-binding resolutions to delay the implementation of EPA rules – or the Senate may just move right on to the energy bills. (The House passed its version last year.)
So – let’s wait and see what’s next.
Since we ran a picture of Sen. Murkowski earlier this week, we thought we’d have a lovely view of her state Alaska. But that was a bit of stretch – so consider this Lisa Murkowski week at Nuclear Notes.