Republicans Lack Votes to Block EPA’s Air Rules, Hoyer Says

Jun 06, 2014 3:42 am ET

June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats in Congress will be able to keep Republicans from overturning the Obama administration’s rules to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, said second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer.

“The overwhelming majority of our party is going to support it and the Senate’s not going to pass a repeal,” Hoyer of Maryland said in an interview today with Bloomberg News reporters and editors in New York. Democrats control the Senate 55-45.

“Nor will the president sign it,” Hoyer said. “And if it got to him, we’d sustain his veto.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s rule, proposed June 2, seeks to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by an average of 30 percent from 2005 levels. The reduction would be equal to eliminating carbon pollution from two-thirds of all cars and trucks in the U.S.

Republicans in Congress oppose the plan, saying it would cost jobs and raise electricity prices. A number of Democrats from energy-producing states have expressed concern about the proposed rules or said they want to see changes.

House Republican leaders are considering whether to push legislation to reject the emissions rules or try to block the EPA from spending money to implement them.

The House voted in August 2013 to allow either the House or Senate to veto major U.S. rulemaking, including emissions rules. Democrats held their defections to just six lawmakers who voted with Republicans to pass the bill.

Energy Dollars

U.S. energy companies have increased giving to Republicans over Democrats ahead of the November election, betting that a Republican-held Senate would be more resistant to regulations that may harm energy producers. Republicans need to gain a net six seats to take majority control of the Senate.

Coal-industry political action committees have given 93 percent of contributions to Republicans in the 2013-14 election cycle so far, compared with 68 percent in 2010. Oil and gas company PACs gave 83 percent of donations to Republicans, while electric utilities gave 63 percent to members of the party.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he plans to introduce legislation to block the EPA standards.

John Podesta, President Barack Obama’s top adviser on climate issues, met privately with Hoyer and senior House Democrats last week before the rules were announced.

Democrats have highlighted the health benefits of cleaner air from reduced emissions while rejecting claims by Republicans and industry representatives that the proposal would cost jobs.

“This false choice that some would like to pose between jobs and breathing clean air, it’s harmful and I think it’s unfair to the next generation that will have to breathe the air we leave them,” California Democrat Xavier Becerra, another Democrat briefed by Podesta, told reporters.