Democrats' Walkout Fails to Stop Measure Blocking Obama Climate Rules

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U.S. President Barack Obama looks on during an investiture ceremony for Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Warner Theatre on June 17, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Senate Republicans advanced a bill to block Obama administration regulations curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, overcoming a walkout by Democrats from a committee meeting that was considering the measure.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe corralled Republicans from his committee Wednesday to meet off the Senate floor, and they approved the bill without Democratic support. The measure had been introduced by West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito.

Inhofe and Capito are leading efforts in Congress to stop President Barack Obama’s rule that mandates states curb use of coal and replace it with less carbon-intensive wind, solar and natural gas power. Republicans warn the rule will send electricity rates higher and may undercut the reliability of the electric grid.

While the Obama administration has pledged to veto any of these bills, Inhofe, who calls global warming a hoax, said he will continue his fight and seek the Democratic votes to override a veto.

“You gotta try,” Inhofe told reporters. “Whether we pick up enough votes to do that, I don’t know.”

During consideration of Capito’s measure, Democrats introduced amendments about climate change, which the regulation is aimed at combating. One would have stipulated that the climate is changing and humans are the main cause. It failed in a party line vote.

Inhofe objected to the repeated consideration of general amendments to Capito’s bill.

‘Mixed’ Science

Climate change “is debatable,” Inhofe said. “We’ve had hearings on this. The science is mixed.”

After a contentious morning of debate on the amendments, Democrats left the hearing room as Republicans were prepared to consider an unrelated bill that would allow farmers to spray pesticides near bodies of water.

California Democrat Barbara Boxer said the bill hadn’t been vetted enough to warrant a committee vote. Republicans later convened and approved the Capito bill by voice vote.

The power plant rules aim for a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030 from 2005 levels. To meet the target, it gives states credit for solar or wind projects that break ground in the next few years. It will require utilities to run natural-gas plants more or encourage customers to use less electricity.

In a separate action, West Virginia and 15 other states Wednesday filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency asking for a delay in implementing the rule, pending the outcome of any legal challenges.

Without a stay, states will have to “expend enormous public resources” to prepare to comply with the rule, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement.