McConnell Seeks to Block EPA Climate Rules

Mitch McConnell, R-KY is the Senate minority leader
National Journal
Amy Harder
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Amy Harder
Jan. 16, 2014, 5:54 a.m.

Senate Republicans are launching a legislative attack against President Obama’s climate-change agenda on the same day it faces scrutiny from a Senate committee. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is invoking a rarely used legislative tool to try to block EPA’s climate-change regulations.

McConnell, who faces a tough reelection campaign this year, filed on Thursday a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule clamping down on carbon emissions of the nation’s power plants. This move could force a Senate vote within the next couple of months on the cornerstone of President Obama’s climate-change agenda.

The CRA, used successfully just once since its creation in 1996, allows senators to bypass the majority leader and force an up-or-down vote requiring only 51 votes to pass to stop regulations. Senate Republicans have tried — but failed — to use this legislative tool for other EPA regulations over the past couple of years.

A legal snag with this particular EPA rule that McConnell is seeking to undo is that the CRA can only be used against recently finalized regulations, not those in proposed form, which this one is. However, some conservative legal scholars have speculated that this rule may have an immediate legal impact, and thus could be considered “final” for these purposes. McConnell sent a letter Thursday to the Government and Accountability Office seeking legal clarification on this matter.

“EPA issued the Proposed GHG Rule under a very unusual provision of the Clean Air Act that gives immediate legal effect to the notice of proposed rulemaking,” McConnell writes in the letter, obtained by National Journal.

Under the CRA, a senator can force a vote to block rules within 60 (legislative) days since those rules were published in the Federal Register. EPA did so with its proposed climate regulations last week.

McConnell filed the resolution on the same day EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other administration officials testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the agency’s climate-change regulations.

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