The Clean Air Act continues to come under fire from all angles. Last week, the Senate Appropriations process was nearly hijacked by amendments to de-fund the EPA's Clean Air Act enforcement. Luckily, the markup in question was delayed. Primary drama continues to dominate the political news cycle as the November elections draw closer.
9/13: Congress returns from recess
10/8: Target adjournment for the House and Senate
11/2: Election Day
11/15: Beginning of Senate lame duck session (tentative)
Clean Air Act Dodges a Major Blow in the Appropriations Committee
Last week the Senate Appropriators Committee nearly took a close vote on an amendment to strip the EPA of its Clean Air Act funding. Committee staff said the potential vote was delayed to make room for an amendment from the Obama Administration to increase the budget for offshore drilling regulation by $100 million. In the meantime, representatives from the oil and coal industries led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce worked to drum up support for the "Rockefeller-like" appropriations amendment, which will likely resurface, despite the shifted schedule.
Rockefeller's Dirty Air Act Remains a Threat
The potential partisan amendment in the Appropriations Committee led some Democratic Dirty Air Act co-sponsors to renew their call for a cleaner gutting of the Clean Air Act. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) both came out in opposition to the Appropriations amendment, but unfortunately remain set on blocking Clean Air Act rules more directly with legislation before the end of the year.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reiterated his promise to hold a vote on the measure this year. "I spoke with Harry again today and he again said, 'You're going to get your vote,'" Rockefeller said. Rockefeller claims he has 53 votes, and that 7 more are "highly gettable." Forty-seven senators supported Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) attempt to gut the Clean Air Act, which lost in a vote in July. Of the 53 who voted against Murkowski, 5 have co-sponsored Rockefeller's Dirty Air Act, making 52 Senators (47+5) who would likely support Rockefeller's bill.
Midterm Election Update
In the Delaware Republican Senate primary, climate denier and Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell came out of obscurity to beat the establishment candidate Rep. Mike Castle. This new development makes it much more likely that the seat will be picked up by a Democrat who supports climate legislation, but it does not bode well for the future of bipartisanship on climate. Castle was the only GOP Senate candidate to support climate legislation. Other Senate candidates like Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have backed down from previously strong climate stances in favor of toeing the party line.
Dirty Air Act author Sen. Lisa Murkowski has decided to run as a write-in candidate, after losing to a Palin-endorsed challenger in a recent Senate primary. Challenging the winner of the Republican primary has forced her to step down from her position within the Republican leadership, a move that could be good news for climate advocates. Nate Silver at the New York Times says that she can pick up a solid chunk of the independent vote and win.