Senate rejects ‘Big Oil Bailout’ — barely

SENATE REJECTS ‘BIG OIL BAILOUT’ — BARELY…. The very idea was absurd. The government is going to have to regulate carbon emissions to combat global warming, and if Congress refuses to act, the Environmental Protection Agency can use the Clean Air Act to move forward.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), working with oil company lobbyists, crafted a scheme to deal with the problem a different way — push a rarely-used tactic through the Senate that would strip the EPA of its authority to act. The idea, known in some corners as Murkowski’s “Big Oil Bailout,” would allow Republicans to block Congress from tackling the problem and block the administration from taking any action.

The gambit needed 51 votes. It came just a few votes short.

The final roll call was 47 to 53. Every single Republican — including so-called moderates Snowe, Collins, and Brown — voted against science, against the environment, and for Murkowski’s scheme. They were joined by a few too many Democrats, including Sens. Bayh, Rockefeller, Pryor, Landrieu, Lincoln and Ben Nelson.

The argument pushed by Murkowski and her allies was that the power to act should rest in the hands of lawmakers, not EPA officials. (It was a rather pathetic argument from those who don’t want lawmakers to act, either.) But immediately after the measure failed, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) called their bluff: if they think lawmakers should take the lead, now’s their chance to play a constructive role in passing a comprehensive climate/energy bill.

[Kerry and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)] called on those who supported today’s measure to strip greenhouse gas regulation authority from the EPA to step up and support the American Power Act.

“The Senate made the right decision today but the big question is what comes now. Many supporters of the Murkowski resolution argued passionately that climate change is real but that addressing it is a job for Congress not the EPA. We hope they will now engage with us to pass our pro-business, pro-jobs approach so the EPA doesn’t have to do the job that the Senate has failed to do,” the Senators said in a joint statement. “We have an unprecedented coalition of business supporters standing behind our bill, including many who have successfully killed previous legislation. They know that the American Power Act is not your grandfather’s climate bill. It contains business incentives and provisions that non-partisan analysts agree will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, protect consumers, and put us on a path towards energy independence. Now we face a test of whether the Senate can do what even the Murkowski resolution’s proponents said we should be doing.”

That’s a very good message. I’m just skeptical about its efficacy.

Today’s vote was heartening, to the extent that a ridiculous idea failed. But the margin points in a very discouraging direction — Republicans will block any and all legislation related to global warming, and demand a 60-vote majority. As of today, not one GOP senator is prepared to do their duty and take this issue seriously. Literally, not one.

I’m delighted Murkowski’s “Big Oil Bailout” failed, but I’m hard pressed to imagine how supporters of evidence, science, and common sense will navigate the road forward.