Senate Dems to force vote on Clean Power Plan replacement

Source: By Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2019

Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the Trump administration’s Clean Power Plan replacement, potentially putting swing state Republicans in a difficult spot.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said they will bring up a floor vote next week on the Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule via the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that allows Congress to strike down executive branch actions.

Holding the vote would be a symbolic victory for Democratic opponents of the power plant greenhouse gas emissions rule, which lets states pick technologies to make improvements at individual power plants, tossing out the systemwide approach of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

“Senate Democrats will not sit around and wait for Senator McConnell to finally wake up and take action, so next week we will force a vote to repeal the EPA’s dangerous rule that weakens critical standards to reduce emissions from power plants that significantly contribute to the climate crisis,” Schumer said in a statement this afternoon.

“The Trump administration’s Dirty Power Scam comes at a time when Americans are demanding we take bold action to confront the climate crisis and it must be reversed.”

The ACE rule vote won’t lead to a substantive policy reversal, but it’s part of a larger political strategy to frame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as an obstructionist and set up uncomfortable votes for vulnerable GOP incumbents, such as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Schumer said Senate Democrats also plan to force votes next month on Trump administration rules related to “junk” health care plans and state and local taxes.

The CRA gives Congress 60 legislative days to overturn final federal regulations by simple majority vote, an authority Republicans used to toss out more than a dozen Obama administration rules at the beginning of President Trump’s term.

Cardin introduced a resolution of disapproval for the ACE rule last month, after Democrats pledged to use the CRA to overturn it when the Trump EPA published a draft version last year (Greenwire, Sept. 10).

Unlike normal legislation, which generally needs McConnell’s support to get on the Senate calendar, CRA resolutions can be fast-tracked to the floor with signatures from 30 senators.

Cardin’s resolution is unlikely to get enough Republican support to pass, and Trump could simply veto the disapproval effort if it were to reach his desk.

Cardin said the Senate would “abdicate its responsibility if it fails to repeal the ACE rule,” which critics in the environmental community say is a watered-down regulatory handout to fossil fuels.

“The ACE rule presents a major step backward for the United States’ clean energy future, putting downwind states like Maryland at greater risk of pollution generated elsewhere,” Cardin said in a statement. “We can and must do better to protect our constituents, human health, and the environment.”