In an attempt to gut the Clean Air Act, all but one of the Republican senators voted today to end EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. Despite defections by four Democratic senators, the measure narrowly failed to pass.
Republicans weren’t just opposed by Democrats; they’re opposed by the public at large. Almost seven out of ten voters “believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.” More specifically, a clear majority of voters—including forty-three percent of Republicans—have said they would oppose even temporary limitations on the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases.
This break with public opinion is nothing new. The GOP has a history of putting itself well outside the mainstream on environmental issues. In fact, the GOP leadership has made a habit of appointing the biggest environmental opponents to sit on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Consider just a sampling of their beliefs:
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): The committee’s ranking member claims that “man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Contradicting the findings of 97 percent of scientific experts, Inhofe says “we’re in a cooling period.” Environmentalists and their tactics remind him of “the Third Reich, the Big Lie,” and he has called the EPA a “Gestapo bureaucracy.” Inhofe has accepted $1.2 million from oil and gas interests over the course of his career, making the industry far and away his most generous contributor; this may explain why he voted to preserve $35 billion in oil and gas subsidies last year.
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR): The Arkansas Republican is a climate zombie who denies the existence of man-made climate change. As a congressman, Boozman supported a $14 billion royalty exemption for offshore oil operations; he also voted to take away the EPA’s ability to designate critical habitat for endangered species.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): Barrasso is a strenuous opponent of the Endangered Species Act because he does not want to protect polar bears. He did not deny that polar bears were a threatened species, but objected to them being classified as such because the economic consequences “would be utterly devastating” and “there would be no area of the economy left untouched.” Still, there is something Barrasso wants to protect: oil and gas subsidies. Over the past few years, oil and gas companies have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Wyoming Republican.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID): The Idaho senator is also a climate zombie who denies the existence of man-made climate change. As a congressman, Crapo tried to gut the EPA, voting to reduce its funding by a third and severely curtail enforcement powers—including its ability to regulate the amount of arsenic in drinking water. More recently, Crapo has opposed limits on mercury emissions and voted to protect oil and gas subsidies.
Despite the beliefs of Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee, three-quarters of Americans want to get rid of oil and gas subsidies. More than half call global warming a “major problem” and believe that the government is doing “too little” to reduce it. Even cap-and-trade, the new bogeyman of the right that was once touted as a conservative proposal by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty, gets majority or plurality support in most polls. Today’s vote simply provides confirmation of a longstanding trend: Republicans in the Senate are ignoring the science and ignoring the public.
— CAPAF intern Cody McClelland
The series of votes this afternoon on four different anti-climate amendments demonstrated that some Democrats are also supporting the polluter agenda. In addition to the four Democrats who voted for the McConnell amendment — Landrieu (LA), Manchin (WV), Nelson (NE), and Pryor (AR) — there were 13 other Democrats who supported one of the other amendments to delay or block EPA rules on global warming pollution: Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Brown (OH), Casey (PA), Conrad (ND), Hagan (NC), Johnson (SD), Klobuchar (MN), Levin (MI), McCaskill (MO), Rockefeller (WV), Stabenow (MI), and Webb (VA).
Only Sen. Susan Collins (ME) broke the Republican ranks to vote against the McConnell amendment, voting instead for Rockefeller’s two-year delay bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Scott Brown (R-MA) voted for both the Rockefeller and McConnell amendments.
If all 64 Senators were to vote for legislation to hobble climate action in the future, a filibuster would fall, and only a veto from President Obama could protect the Clean Air Act from the polluter agenda.