WASHINGTON — In a largely symbolic gesture driven by growing Republican frustration with the Obama administration's environmental policies, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday passed a measure that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases.
The 255-172 vote on the measure by Republican Reps. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Fred Upton of Michigan came a day after the Democratic-controlled Senate voted down a similar measure sponsored by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Earlier this week, the Office of Management and Budget issued a statement saying that if the president were presented with the legislation, "his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."
Despite the fact that the measure is unlikely to net the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate or survive a presidential veto, Whitfield, along with coal mining and manufacturing organizations and lawmakers who represent states that rely heavily on those industries, claimed victory.
"Over the last two years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been particularly active in advancing an aggressive environmental agenda, without regard to the impact on jobs and the economy," Whitfield said after the vote. "Today, we took an important step to stop EPA from acting outside of their authority in enacting regulations that would have sweeping consequences across all sectors of the economy and that would result in higher energy costs for consumers across the nation."
The tension between lawmakers such as Whitfield who hail from coal mining states, and Upton, who hails from a manufacturing state, and the Obama administration reached new levels this year.
In February, EPA head Lisa Jackson was forced to go on the defensive against Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a marathon hearing. GOP lawmakers accused the Obama administration of using strong-arm tactics to push its climate change agenda at the expense of jobs and the economy.
"While EPA has conducted jobs impact studies on some regulations, they have yet to do a comprehensive analysis of all the rules that will be coming down in a train wreck of regulation that will have far-reaching consequences on jobs and economic growth," Whitfield, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said after the hearing.
Jackson fired back that the Whitfield-Upton measure is a case of "politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question," a practice that, she said, could have far-ranging negative implications.
The tension stems from partisan interpretations of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts vs. EPA, which held that the agency should regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Republicans often accuse the Obama administration of interpreting the ruling too broadly and say the EPA's efforts are crippling the economy. Democrats counter that it's sound science, not the EPA, that's guiding policy.
The mining and manufacturing industries think the EPA is pursuing an overly aggressive regulatory agenda, and they applauded Thursday's vote.
"The bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives today demonstrates that our nation's lawmakers understand this and are willing to stand against Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would prevent job creation and economic growth," said Jay Timmons, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Environmental groups quickly denounced Thursday's House vote.
"The Senate on Wednesday defeated the misguided Upton legislation, yet the House continues to be intent on denying science, the Supreme Court and the will of the American people, who say they want more clean air protections, not less," said Franz Matzner, the climate and air legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This attack on our families' health doesn't serve the public; it only serves big polluters."
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