Shutdown Looms, As House Rejects EPA’s GHG Finding

by | Apr 8, 2011

The federal government is teetering on the edge of a shutdown today, with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas regulations one of the key points of contention in a lingering budget dispute.

Republicans want to eliminate funding that the EPA uses to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other pollutants. The party has been making this and other social issues, such as abortion funding, sticking points in negotiations to fund the federal government through the end of the year, NPR reports.

If the two sides cannot agree on a 2011 budget, a government shutdown will begin at midnight tonight.

In related news, yesterday the House of Representatives voted 255-172 for a bill that rejects the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health. Those voting for the bill included 19 Democrats, Politico reported.

A 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, obliged the EPA to determine whether carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA declared that GHGs do indeed pose that threat.

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said, “The Supreme Court basically ruled that the EPA should regulate carbon dioxide,” he said. “And I totally disagree with that. That’s Congress’s job, not EPA’s job.”

The bill is not expected to pass the Senate, but its supporters say the strength of support for the measure sends a message to the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, four measures designed to restrict the EPA’s regulatory powers over greenhouse gases all failed in the Senate. But 17 Democrats broke with the president to vote for one or more measures, Politico said.

Of these, four voted for a measure that would have prohibited the EPA from regulating GHGs altogether. They were Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana,Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Democratic leaders have indicated that they could accept almost $35 billion in spending cuts for the remainder of 2011, but say halts to environmental regulation and abortion funding are off the table. “We don’t have the time to fight over the Tea Party’s extreme social agenda,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.) said.

But Rep. Mike Pence said, “It seems like liberals in the Senate would rather shut the government down than accept a 2 percent cut in the federal budget.”

A budget bill approved by the house in February included provisions to defund environmental regulations. Yesterday the House passed a bill that would fund federal agencies for another week. The bill includes $12 billion in additional cuts.

Pictured:  President Obama delivers a statement on the ongoing budget talks. White House photo.

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