Controversial EPA Vote on Hold in Senate

Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:57am

Senate Democrats have some breathing room before they have to weigh in on a contentious proposal to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. 

A vote on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed amendment to the small-business legislation the Senate has been considering this week won’t happen before the week of March 28, Democratic sources confirmed Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency vote would be a tough one for some moderate Democrats, who would find themselves in the unsavory position of having to choose between the Obama administration and an anti-regulation Republican movement in Congress. The Kentucky Republican introduced the amendment Tuesday, and Republican aides have been grousing that no agreement has been reached to schedule a vote. 

Further complicating matters, two Democratic Senators — Max Baucus (Mont.) and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) — want votes on their own EPA-related amendments if McConnell gets his.

Rockefeller’s amendment would institute a two-year moratorium rather than a permanent ban on the EPA’s power to police greenhouse gasses. Baucus’ proposal would exempt agricultural producers and certain small businesses from EPA greenhouse gas regulations. 

The Senate on Thursday afternoon suspended debate on the small-business bill and took up a three-week stopgap spending measure that Obama must sign by tomorrow to avert a government shutdown. The continuing resolution — the sixth of this fiscal year — would cut another $6 billion in federal spending. It would keep the government funded through April 8. 

Thursday afternoon votes on the spending measure and a judicial nomination are slated to be the Senate’s final votes before next week’s recess.