The Senate defeated a bid by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to neuter the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by a vote of 53-47 vote on Thursday afternoon. Advocates for action on climate change chalked it up as a win—but it wasn't without some blood.
Six Democrats crossed over and sided with Republicans on the bill: Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Evan Bayh (Ind.) , and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.).
The vote came after six hours of debate. Murkowski painted the effort as move to protect the economy from regulations she thinks would be crippling. It would just take away the EPA's ability to act "while we work on a more responsible solution," said Murkowski. Other Republicans chose to stick with the argument that greenhouse gases aren't a problem and anyone who believes they are is perpetrating a hoax on the public.
Most among the Democrats portrayed the resolution of disapproval as a bid to protect big polluters. "This is the moment," said California Democrat Barbara Boxer. "Two sides: protecting polluters or protecting our families."
But among the Democrats, there was also Rockefeller, who stated, among other things, that he doesn't care about the Environmental Protection Agency or the Supreme Court, whose 2007 decision directed the EPA to reach a determination about whether or not greenhouse gases pose a threat to humans.
Enviro groups cheered the win, while casting scorn upon the "yes" voters. "The Senators who voted for this resolution should be ashamed of themselves," said Gillian Caldwell, campaign director for 1Sky.
Although some enviro groups, and even Murkowski, insisted that this is "not a referendum on any other legislation pending in the Senate" (i.e., a climate and energy package that may or may not come to a vote later this year), it could still be cast that way. Senators may yet decide to move forward with a bill regulating carbon dioxide. That is what the Obama administration and many others have repeatedly stated would be the ideal situation anyway.
But very few of those voting for today's resolution have expressed much enthusiasm about the Senate passing a new law this year. While Murkowski's loss might make some folks optimistic, it still means that there are 41 Republicans and six Democrats who think that it's okay to tell the EPA that science doesn't matter, and neither does the Supreme Court. It depends on how you want to look at it.