Our guest blogger is Josh Nelson, publisher of EnviroKnow.com.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the most prominent climate change denier in the United States Senate, has concocted a new and innovative strategy to thwart the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). To wit, he and his Republican colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee have worked up a plan to simply not show up for this week’s markup:
But Boxer cannot hold the markup unless at least two Republicans show up, and EPW ranking member James Inhofe (R-OK) signaled that he has unanimous support among the panel’s minority members to boycott the session until they get more data on the legislation from U.S. EPA and the Congressional Budget Office.
Late Friday, Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey announced “Republicans will be forced not to show up” at the markup hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Sadly, this is a continuation of the GOP’s longstanding strategy of delaying clean energy legislation:
— As Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) shepherded his American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) through the House Energy and Commerce Committee this June, committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-TX) employed multiple parliamentary tricks to “nitpick the bill into legislative oblivion.” Democrats responded to these “nefarious stall tactics” by calling Barton’s bluff, even hiring a speed reader.
— House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) filibustered the final vote on the ACES Act for hours by reading the text of the bill on the House floor.
— Last year during the debate over the Climate Security Act, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) demanded that the entire 491 page bill be read on the floor of the United States Senate. A strategy memo was leaked at the time detailing the Republican strategy for delaying the bill as much as humanly possible.
While this Republican obstructionism is not necessarily surprising, it is especially egregious this time. Here are a few things about this episode that struck me:
— Despite the fact that Senator Inhofe has been working to orchestrate this obstruction for a week now, Republicans are pretending the effort is being led by the two moderate Republicans on the committee. Politico handled the stenography, writing that the “boycott effort is being led by the two most moderate Republican members on the committee: Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.” This is absolutely not true. Voinovich and Alexander have both indicated a willingness to lend bipartisan support to the legislation. Their statements in support of Inhofe’s obstruction are an indication that they are showing deference to the ranking member on the committee, nothing more. Again, this thing has Inhofe written all over it.
— Senator Inhofe, of course, will never support the bill regardless of any economic modeling the EPA does. He does not even believe that humans are responsible for climate change. In his opposition to health care legislation he was at least honest enough to say so up front, telling a town hall in August, “I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways.” The same is true of the Kerry-Boxer clean energy bill: Inhofe has no intention of learning anything about it or voting for it. His only intention is to gum up the works and delay delay delay.
— As Senator Boxer has pointed out, Inhofe’s stated reason for concern here is absurd. The two-week EPA analysis of Kerry-Boxer came on top of the five-week review of the House-passed bill — and the two bills are “90 percent similar,” says Boxer. “We’re not going to waste taxpayer money because someone drew a line in the sand.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has called Inhofe’s gambit exactly what it is: “theatrics.”
This is nothing more than a shameless attempt to obstruct and delay clean energy legislation. Both on the EPW Committee, and in the full Senate, the numbers are on the side of passage. Senator Inhofe knows this, so he is throwing one last hail-mary in an attempt to stall the process. I don’t expect better from him, but it is still pretty pathetic.