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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