The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on final passage of H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act. The Rules Committee is allowing the Democrats to offer twelve amendments to weaken or gut the bill. (It is worth recalling that on 26th June 2009, the Democrats allowed only one Republican amendment and couldn’t even provide an accurate copy of the bill, since 300 pages had been added in the middle of the night, but the new sections hadn’t been put in their proper places in the 1200 page bill that had been released four days before.) No Republican amendments to strengthen to the bill will be allowed. The rule can be found here. It is quite possible that the vote on final passage will be delayed until tomorrow.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled votes on amendments offered by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) amendments to S. 493, a re-authorization bill for small business subsidies, for some time after 4 PM today. The McConnell amendment is the Senate version of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482. The other amendments are attempts to give some ground without blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions permanently (that is, until Congress authorizes such regulations). This shows how far the debate has shifted. It appears that the three straddling amendments may each get fifteen to thirty votes. It appears that the McConnell amendment (#183) will get 51 or perhaps even 52 votes, but will not be adopted because it is not a germane amendment and therefore requires 60 votes to survive a point of order. All 47 Republicans are expected to vote for it plus Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR). Maybe one more Democrat, such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could of course still change his mind.
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Is the public clamoring for more EPA regulation?
That’s what Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) claimed yesterday in a speech on the Senate floor (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) denouncing S. 493, the McConnell amendment/Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy.
Boxer cited a poll finding that 69% of Americans believe “EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter pollution limits.” Of course, most people want cleaner air in the abstract. That tells us nothing about how much those same people are willing to pay for cleaner air, or what other public priorities (e.g. affordable energy, job creation) they are willing to sacrifice or put at risk. In the abstract, most people also support a balanced budget. But that does not necessarily mean they want Congress to cut their favorite programs or raise taxes. Without meaning to, people can easily “lie” to a pollster (see the accompanying cartoon).
In an earlier post today, I note that in the November 2010 elections, voters punished lawmakers pushing the EPA-Obama-Boxer stealth energy tax agenda formerly known as cap-and-trade. Elections are the most relevant “poll” for guiding legislative deliberations.
Maybe Boxer thinks she has more up-to-date information about public attitudes. But a very recent opinion survey conducted by the Tarrance Group directly contradicts the poll Boxer cites. Here are the results, as summarized in the Tarrance Group’s March 30, 2011 press release: [click to continue…]
Yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) mounted a tirade (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) against the McConnell amendment (a.k.a. S. 482, the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act) to the small business reauthorization bill (S. 493). The amendment would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy under the guise of implementing the Clean Air Act (CAA), a statute enacted in 1970, years before global warming emerged as a public policy issue.
The Senate is expected to vote later today on S. 493, so it worthwhile examining Boxer’s speech, which opponents of the bill will undoubtedly recycle in today’s debate.
I discuss the rhetorical traps S. 482 supporters should avoid in an earlier post. Stick to your moral high ground, namely, the constitutional premise that Congress, not an administrative agency with no political accountability to the people, should make the big decisions regarding national policy. The fact that Congress remains deadlocked on climate and energy policy is a compelling reason for EPA not to ‘enact’ greenhouse gas (GHG) controls. It is not an excuse for EPA to substitute its will for that of the people’s representatives.
Okay, that said, let’s examine Boxer’s rant. It is lengthy, repetitive, and often ad homonym, so I’ll try to hit just the main points. [click to continue…]
How many agencies does it take to regulate fuel economy?
Only one — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — if we follow the law (1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act); three — NHTSA + EPA + the California Air Resources Board — if law is trumped by the backroom, “put nothing in writing,” Presidential Records Act-defying deal negotiated by former Obama Environment Czar Carol Browner.
Tomorrow, the Senate is expected to vote on S. 493, the McConnell amendment, which is identical to S. 482, the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act. S. 493 would overturn all of EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations except for the GHG/fuel economy standards EPA and NHTSA jointly issued for new motor vehicles covering model years 2012-2016, and the GHG/fuel economy standards the agencies have proposed for medium- and heavy-duty trucks covering model years 2014-2018. The legislation would leave intact NHTSA’s separate statutory authority to regulate fuel economy standards for automobiles after model year 2016 and trucks after model year 2018.
Bear in mind that GHG emission standards and fuel economy standards are largely duplicative. As EPA acknowledges, 94-95% of all GHG emissions from motor vehicles are carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of motor fuels. And as EPA and NHTSA acknowledge, “there is a single pool of technologies for addressing these twin problems [climate change, oil dependence], i.e., those that reduce fuel consumption and thereby reduce CO2 emissions as well” (Joint GHG/Fuel Economy Rule, p. 25327).
The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), whose members know a thing or two about what it takes to meet the needs of the car-buying public, sent a letter to the Senate today urging a “Yes” vote on S. 493. NADA stresses three points. S. 493 would:
- End, after 2016, the current triple regulation of fuel economy by three different agencies (NHTSA, EPA, and California) under three different rules.
- Restore a true single national fuel economy standard under the CAFE program, with rules set by Congress, not unelected officials. Ensure jobs, consumer choice, and highway safety are considered according to federal law when setting a fuel economy standard.
- Save taxpayers millions of dollars by ending EPA’s duplicative fuel economy regime after 2016.
Let’s examine the first two points in a bit more detail. The NADA letter says: [click to continue…]
The Senate may vote today on the McConnell Amendment to S. 493. The amendment is identical to S. 482, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which was passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday evening, with bipartisan support. The legislation would revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Although this looked like a long shot when Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) surprised everyone by offering it yesterday, the Democratic leadership realized late yesterday afternoon that they might lose. That’s when Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced his two-year delay bill as an amendment. That has fallen flat. The outcome appears to be in doubt this morning. There could be a vote and McConnell’s amendment could pass narrowly. There could be a vote and the amendment could fail narrowly. There could be a deal on all the amendments pending and the amendment could be withdrawn as part of the deal. McConnell could pull the amendment because it’s going to fail. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) could pull the bill from the floor because the amendment is going to pass.
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