Republicans in Congress are trying every means available to stop the Clean Power Plan, and they might go as far as putting a government shutdown on the line, experts say.
A resolution announced by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) this week will seek to use the Congressional Review Act to essentially strike the Clean Power Plan from the books. If the resolutions disapproving of the Clean Power Plan pass — and the president signs them into law — the rule would be prohibited from going into effect.
Granted, there is no way that President Obama is going to sign a resolution killing what is widely considered to be his most important legacy on climate, and possibly his most important legacy as president, overall.
The Clean Power Plan, authorized under the Clean Air Act, will limit the amount of carbon pollution from power plants, fundamentally reducing U.S. emissions. Under the rule, states have broad flexibility to develop plans that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining reliability. The rule is a critical component of U.S. climate action.
But the mostly Republican move to invoke the Congressional Review Act (Heitkamp is joined on the Senate resolution by 47 Republicans and fellow Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Whitfield’s resolutions in the House do not have any cosponsors) highlights the uncertainty facing America’s climate policy.
“It’s a bright symbol that if we do elect any Republican as president, there will be a retreat on doing anything about climate,” Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund legislative director Scott Slesinger told ThinkProgress. “Virtually all of them disavow that climate change is man-made.”
Moreover, slashing America’s carbon reduction plans could send a truly bad signal to the rest of the world. In a month, world leaders will gather in Paris for COP21, the United Nations’ climate change conference, where they intend to come up with a broad, ambitious agreement to limit carbon emissions worldwide, in an attempt to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
The Clean Power Plan, needless to say, will play a huge role in the United States being able to meet its carbon reduction pledge. Killing, or even delaying, the rule could draw the United States’ global leadership thus far into question.
“I would find it unlikely that a Republican president would be able to end up supporting something [on climate], even if its reversal would seriously undermine our leadership in the world,” Slesinger said.
Congressional review is not the only mechanism by which Congress could get rid of the Clean Power Plan.
Another bill, which would codify the Clean Air Act and which was approved by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, would also effectively kill the rule. That bill would certainly be vetoed, if it reached the president.
But the appropriations landscape heating up now offers an even more dangerous minefield for the beleaguered rule. While a budget deal has been reportedly reached, there has been no talk yet of riders, Slesinger said.
Republican opponents to the Clean Power Plan could insert any number of riders — from a simple delay, to defunding, to an out-and-out amendment to the Clean Air Act.
“There are some Republicans who are ready to shut down the government and default on our debt over Planned Parenthood,” Slesinger noted. “How can you say it won’t be attempted?”