We are bombarded daily with stories bemoaning the societal ills engendered by the hyper-partisanship of our present political discourse. It is, therefore, notable that both Republicans and Democrats can find common ground in opposing the worst excesses of this administration’s anti-energy policies.
Last week, for example, eleven Democratic Senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to stop dragging his feet over the Keystone Pipeline. Specifically, the letter demanded that the President make a final decision on whether to permit the pipeline by the end of May. The signatories were Senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Begich (AK), Mark Pryor (AR), Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Jon Tester (MT), John Walsh (MT), and Kay Hagan (NC). To repeat: twenty percent of the Senate Democratic caucus is goading the Democratic President on a Republican Party talking point. Bipartisanship lives!
Of course, the Senate is historically the more friendly of the two Chambers of Congress. The House is now widely perceived as being far more partisan, and therefore far more dysfunctional, relative to the Upper Chamber.
And yet, contrary to this perception, 15% of Democrats on the powerful House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee last week sided with ($) a unanimous Republican committee vote, and passed H.R. 524, legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from vetoing Clean Water Act permits that have already been issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The bill is a direct response to EPA’s January 2011 revocation of a Clean Water Act permit that had already been granted to a surface coal mining project in Logan County, West Virginia. (For much more, see here, here, and here). This was the first time EPA had claimed the authority to issue a retroactive veto; before, permits had been thought to have been akin to a property right (for their duration). EPA justified the veto as being necessary to protect an insect that isn’t an endangered species.
Evidently, EPA’s power grab was too much, even for members of the President’s own party. The bipartisan fear galvanizing H.R. 524 is that EPA now claims the authority to effectively end any business reliant on Clean Water Act permits, at any time, based on the flimsiest of justifications.
Thus, it was a banner week for bipartisanship. Not that you read or heard about it. To be sure, the media normally loves to trumpet whatever both parties can agree on, in this hyper-partisan age. In last week’s cases, however, the common ends (a decision on Keystone; checking the EPA) are uncomfortable for the opinion makers. I’ve noted previously media’s reluctance to acknowledge that opposition to climate change mitigation policies is also healthily bipartisan. (See here and here).