Murkowski vs. the Clean Air Act: Round 2

| Fri Jul. 30, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

The Senate voted down an attempt to take away the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution last month, but the fight isn't over. In fact, it's only beginning.

That measure, offered by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, was premised (rather shakily, considering its source) on the idea that Congress, not the EPA, should act on climate change. But now that the Senate has made it clear that it's not doing anything anytime soon, Murkowski is planning to take another jab at the Clean Air Act.

Now Murkowski is considering whether to take it upon herself to offer the measure that Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) floated, which would set a two-year time-out on new regulations on planet-warming gases from the EPA, set to begin phasing in next year. Rockefeller says he has been promised a floor vote on that measure. Murkowski says she's just "helping" Democrats get around to voting on Rockefeller's measure.

So far, she's floated the idea of pinning it to the small business bill currently under consideration, since it doesn't look like Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow amendments on that bill.

More on her plans, via The Hill:

Murkowski said that it would be more natural to offer Rockefeller’s amendment to an upcoming oil-spill response and energy package, but that "it doesn’t look like we’ll have any opportunity to have any amendments [to that package]. Which I find quite stunning."
"So at this point in time, I'm helping the majority leader keep his commitment to bringing the Rockefeller bill up for a vote."

The vote on Murkowski's last measure was uncomfortably close, with six Democrats siding with the entirety of the Republican Party against the EPA. A vote on Rockefeller could be even closer, especially now that regulations under the Clean Air Act loom on the horizon in 2011. Now that the Senate has punted on climate action, expect these EPA attacks to become more potent in the coming months.