Must-Pass Budget Bill Stalls Over Global-Warming Fight

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) arrives at a Senate Select Intelligence Committee closed briefing on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
June 19, 2014, 9:14 a.m.

With a White House veto threat loom­ing, top Sen­ate Demo­crats on Thursday froze pro­gress on a key spend­ing bill.

At is­sue: a Re­pub­lic­an at­tempt to at­tach lan­guage to the meas­ure that would block Pres­id­ent Obama’s plan to use the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency to ad­dress power plants’ con­tri­bu­tions to glob­al warm­ing.

The de­clar­a­tion sig­nals Obama’s de­term­in­a­tion to up­hold the re­cently un­veiled glob­al-warm­ing rule, which stands to be­come the linch­pin of the pres­id­ent’s en­vir­on­ment­al leg­acy.

Con­gress has un­til the end of Septem­ber to ap­prove the spend­ing bills needed to stave off an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down, but the fight over cli­mate ac­tion raises an­oth­er hurdle to passing this sec­tion of the budget — which would lay out the next fisc­al year’s worth of fin­ances on en­ergy and wa­ter pro­grams.

Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski, the chair of the Sen­ate pan­el where the bill was set to be marked up, said the le­gis­la­tion would have to be voted on even­tu­ally, but that she pulled it from con­sid­er­a­tion Thursday after re­ceiv­ing word from the White House that the pres­id­ent would veto any anti-EPA riders.

“The amend­ment was a bill killer,” Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, an­oth­er Demo­crat on the pan­el, said dur­ing the hear­ing. “If it didn’t lead to de­feat on the Sen­ate floor, it would have res­ul­ted in a White House veto; that was con­firmed to me by the White House yes­ter­day.”

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials weighed in dur­ing an el­ev­enth-hour scramble Wed­nes­day night as Mikul­ski and Fein­stein tried to de­cide wheth­er to pro­ceed.

Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of the pan­el cast the de­cision as an­oth­er in­stance of Sen­ate Demo­crats dis­al­low­ing amend­ment votes sought by the minor­ity.

“I’m so troubled by the de­cision today,” said Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der. “I hope we think about what we’re do­ing here. This can­not be the way the Sen­ate works.”

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