"Buffalo News: GOP is undermining environmental progress"
The last time the Republicans captured the House majority in 1994, it took them years to refine their pay-to-play system where lobbyists from K Street strolled right into the Capitol and dictated legislation.
The new GOP majority won’t squander this opportunity. It is quickly eliminating the middleman, so to speak. It’s putting former corporate lobbyists right on House staff payrolls.
The committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, which Republican hardliners want to kill, now harbors lobbyists from the natural gas “fracking trade,” the subsidized biofuels industry, oil drillers and coal diggers.
There’s a good column in the Buffalo News, excerpted below:
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., has already announced he wants to stop the EPA from requiring coal-and oil-fired power plants to get permits before building or modifying.
Upton is now the most powerful among the many Republicans who want to stifle the federal government’s powers to clean up the air and water, and generally undermine 45 years of environmental progress.
They also want to proliferate genetically altered foods, seeds and grains in behalf of the corporate agribusiness, and create so much confusion as to render the term “organic” meaningless.
“This is a Congress that is dangerous to your health,” warns David Doniger, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The GOP won the 2010 House campaign cooing tea party themes like smaller government and cutting taxes. Since taking control a month ago, the Republicans have slashed their budget-cutting demands from $100 billion, to $50 billion to $32 billion. Now they are doing the work the financial backers of the tea party really paid for.
These include lobbyist Dick Armey and the Koch Brothers, billionaire owners of hydrocarbon businesses, whose funding of the tea party and other “grass-roots” conservative groups was made easier by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. That edict took the limits off secret and unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions….
But after hobbling the EPA, and blocking enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the new majority’s biggest aim is to slash the tendons of the new Food Safety Modernization Act. Passed with Republican votes during December’s lame-duck session, this permits the Food and Drug Administration to start a foul food recall on its own. It would also upgrade inspection and enforcement of food products from foreign sources….About one in six Americans get sick yearly from food-borne diseases. About 3,000 die. Voluntary recalls by food stores and processors cost billions a year. So even the U. S. Chamber of Commerce supported passage, but other powerful interests oppose it. Hiring thousands of added food inspectors will cost $1.4 billion a year. So the Republican chairman of the House panel controlling funds for the FDA, Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, is now saying it costs too much money. The amount would pay for two days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.The House GOP can’t repeal food safety, like the health care law, but it can try to keep it from being enforced by starving it for cash. The new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is an opponent of the food safety law.
— Douglas Turner