Inhofe on Stopping Obama's Climate Policy: ‘I’ve Got 20 Kids and Grandkids I’ve Got to Save’

Christopher Neefus | March 31, 2011 | 9:36am EDT
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Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) speaks on the Senate floor in this file footage. (Screenshot: C-SPAN)

( Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Wednesday he hopes Republicans will regain control of the Senate in 2012 because he needs to “save” his children and grandchildren from the Obama administration’s environmental policies.

During a conference call with reporters and bloggers, Inhofe ticked off a list of Democrats he believes are vulnerable in the next election cycle, adding a caveat: “By the way, a lot of these people are friends of mine, but this is a numbers game. We’re trying to -- I’ve got twenty kids and grandkids I’ve got to save, and so we’ve got to get back in control.”

His list of on-the-bubble incumbents included Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

Inhofe has introduced an amendment that would stop the Obama administration from regulating greenhouse gases without permission from Congress. But he admitted it was exceedingly difficult to get such votes to take place while in the minority party.

His amendment, which he initially introduced as a separate law, is the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 (S. 482), and it would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, a tactic the administration has begun pursuing after failing to get a cap-and-trade program through Congress.

Inhofe characterized the Democrats’ agenda as “an attempt to do away with fossil fuels.” “This administration, they want to kill energy in America,” he told reporters on the call.

While legislation that would impose a cap-and-trade regime passed the House of Representatives under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the legislation stalled in the Senate where even many Democrats found it politically untenable to vote on.

Instead, the EPA has pursued a so-called “endangerment finding” for carbon dioxide, which effectively brings that common gas under the control of an already-extant law from which the agency derives regulatory authority, the Clean Air Act.

The act, passed in the 1960s and heavily amended in 1990, gives EPA the authority to regulate gases that pose a risk to human health. By declaring that CO2 poses such a danger, EPA believes it can regulate its emission from vehicles and factories.

But many on Capitol Hill say such a novel regulatory approach exceeds the authority Congress meant to give the agency, because CO2 does not directly impact human health.

They note that CO2 is ubiquitous on the planet as a human and animal byproduct and as a vital ingredient in photosynthesis. Instead, EPA contends that CO2 will cause an indirect health threat by building up in the atmosphere and contributing to global climate change.

This is where Inhofe and McConnell’s amendment would come in to thwart the EPA from regulating CO2 emissions.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 would amend the Clean Air Act in several ways, by adding a new section. Proposed Section 330 would redefine the term “air pollutant” to exclude the greenhouse gases CO2, methane and water vapor; would disallow the EPA Administrator from regulating these gases in relation to climate change concerns; and it would repeal the rulemaking already done by EPA to cap carbon emissions.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has filed the bill as an amendment (Senate Amendment 183) on Inhofe’s behalf, attaching it to a bill that increases funding for small business grants that would be politically difficult for President Obama to veto.

The underlying bill renews and increases funding for multiple programs under the Small Business Administration, one of which gives grants to small businesses that cooperate with the government on research and development.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has agreed to include the amendment for debate, and he has brought the underlying bill, S. 493, to the floor for consideration. The Senate currently is working through dozens of other proposed amendments, and a vote on Inhofe’s EPA proposal could come as soon as Thursday ahead of a final vote on the small business bill.

If the measure passes, it will likely find wide support in the Republican-led House of Representatives, where Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has introduced it as H.R. 910 and passed it through the committee he chairs, the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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