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US Republicans Avoid Showdown Over EPA Climate Change Rules

Elana Schor, Politico

Republicans’ aggressive energy agenda has so far conspicuously sidestepped one of their biggest campaign-trail targets: the climate change rules from President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The House GOP plans to steer clear of a showdown over the greenhouse gas rules in a broad energy package that it will unveil this week, raising questions about whether Republicans are grasping for a workable plan to stop the carbon dioxide regulations that EPA will issue later this year.

In the Senate, GOP leaders avoided a fight over Obama’s climate change rules during January’s long debate over Keystone XL pipeline.

And Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), whose panel is in charge of EPA funding, has vowed to push a new energy bill that’s “not a messaging” exercise, a comment that suggests she won’t pick a political fight over climate change just yet — though she also has additional leverage over EPA given her leading role in writing the agency’s spending bill.

One GOP source with knowledge of the party’s strategy said there is “an obvious lack of enthusiasm among Republican staff, and maybe members, too, to do something on” the power-plant emissions rules that EPA is set to finalize this summer. “There’s not a lot of ‘yay, I’m superexcited’ on this.”

In public, however, Republicans vow that they’re committed to fighting what they have long savaged as Obama’s “war on coal.” […]

EPA’s timing for releasing their rules may be the biggest reason for Republicans’ go-slow approach.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have cited the Congressional Review Act — which successfully stopped one executive-branch regulation in 2001 — as a viable method for undercutting EPA. But an attack using CRA would have to wait until the emissions rules are final later this year.

Whether through stand-alone legislation or the CRA, any congressional challenge to EPA is likely to draw a presidential veto. While Republicans have also warned they would use the government funding process to cripple the Obama climate rule, that could trigger a showdown with the White House over who would take the blame for shutting down the agency.

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