Will House Republicans squander an entire year of effort to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency?
Since the 112th Congress began, House Republicans have talked tough about EPA overregulation. They’ve held a multitude of hearings. They’ve passed a number of bills to rein in EPA regulatory excesses, from the TRAIN Act imposing cost-benefit analysis on the agency to the REINS Act requiring congressional approval of regulatory actions costing more than $100 million to votes blocking the EPA from overregulating coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers and farm dust.
They’ve even sliced a modest amount off the EPA’s operating budget.
But none of these measures have stopped or slowed down the eco-fundamentalist EPA from its campaign to destroy the fossil fuel industry and gain control over the entire American economy.
Sure, President Obama delayed the EPA from further tightening the ground-level ozone standard, but that was a result of pressure from a broad coalition of businesses, political advisers and the looming 2012 elections, not necessarily because of the House GOP.
So here we are in the last throes of the first session of the 112th Congress, and House Republicans have little to show except effort. As Winston Churchill said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”
Fortunately, there is still time.
Among other legislation, Congress is looking to pass an appropriations bill this week, and then go home for the Christmas recess. A bill must pass, which means that Democrats must vote up or down on the bill, and President Obama must sign or veto it. No passes allowed - unless House Republicans allow it.
The House GOP has three options: First, they could allow Democrats to get off scot-free by passing an appropriations bill that does nothing but reduce EPA’s funding. As the Obama EPA has shrugged off earlier budget cuts, there is no reason to give congressional Democrats a free pass.
Next, the House GOP could skirt the issue by doing what it has in the past to avoid a showdown with Democrats - pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for another month or so, thereby putting off the battle until the 2012 election year. Sometimes procrastination is good political strategy, but not when the American economy is withering on the vine.
Finally, the House could accomplish what it has worked hard to do all year: Take a firm stand to rein in the job-killing EPA.
Beyond hampering economic recovery and growth, the EPA is actually for the first time in history threatening electricity reliability - so much so that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency responsible for electricity transmission and reliability - is concerned about this.
What this means is next summer, when there’s a heat wave that requires the electric-utility industry to operate at peak capacity, there is a likelihood that Obama EPA actions to put coal-fired power plants out of business will reduce the availability of air conditioning.
Even the EPA recognizes on its website and in its literature that the No. 1 way to avoid death and sickness during a heat wave is air conditioning. That point was driven home during the 2003 heat wave in Europe, which killed more than 50,000 persons.
The point here is the House GOP has some pretty compelling political arguments for drawing a line in the sand on the EPA.
Aside from jobs and the economy, Senate Democrats like Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia - all of whom are up for re-election in 2012 - might not want to roll the dice on whether there will be a killer heat wave next summer.
The fight to rein in the EPA now will be ugly. It may run into Christmas. The left-wing media, green groups, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will falsely attack Republicans as picking polluters over asthmatic children. Their New York Times poll ratings will fall.
Nevertheless, House GOP members were elected to a huge majority in 2010 in order to take such difficult stands.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery, 2009).