By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman - 02/09/11 07:57 PM ET The Hill
The next battle over EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations could be on the House floor.
House Republicans are expected to release a spending package Thursday to keep the government running beyond early March, and hope to bring the measure to the floor next week.
In addition to proposing deep cuts in EPA spending, the continuing resolution could include a provision to hamstring EPA’s power to regulate emissions from power plants, factories and other sources.
But sources on and off Capitol Hill say a stronger possibility would be a floor amendment next week to block EPA – either through a funding limitation or outright removal of the agency’s authority.
GOP leadership aides declined comment Wednesday. But an energy lobbyist predicts an amendment next week. “There is a political element in the Speaker’s office that wants to force a vote on it,” the lobbyist said.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a senior member (and former chairman) of the Energy and Commerce Committee, suggested Wednesday that an amendment could be in the offing.
“I do think it’s fair to put funding restrictions within the CR generically if it saves money and if we have federal agencies operating outside what we consider to be their legislative authority,” Barton told reporters, adding that he expects an “open rule” on the House floor, which means lawmakers will have a chance to offer amendments.
While plans to curb EPA’s power are also backed by some centrist Democrats, they face major hurdles in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority. But provisions attached to a must-pass spending bill nonetheless complicate things for climate advocates.
Senate Republicans have also floated bills to block EPA, while Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has legislation to suspend regulation for two years that has attracted several Democrats.
Regardless of the chances in the Senate, passage of anti-EPA amendments in the House would nonetheless be a major political rebuke of the White House green agenda.
GOP opponents of EPA rules sought to build their case Wednesday with a high-profile hearing in the Energy and Commerce Committee -- one that featured EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson facing a barrage of lawmakers’ attacks.
One former Capitol Hill aide who now works on energy issues said Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee are bracing for upcoming efforts to scuttle EPA climate rules or other EPA regulations that Republicans oppose, even though the specific committee and floor plans are unclear.
“They are planning,” the former aide said, “for anything and everything.”