Murkowski's EPA Block Gains More Dem Support

| Thu Jan. 21, 2010 4:38 PM EST

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announed on the Senate floor on Thurday that she will seek to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases using an obscure parliamentary maneuver called a resolution of disapproval. Last month, the EPA finalized its finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, triggering regulation of these emissions under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski's resolution would block the EPA from writing any such rules. Her effort has 35 GOP cosponsors and three Democratic cosponsors: Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia has also expressed support.

In her speech, Murkowski protested what she called "back door climate regulations with no input from Congress." The endangerment finding, she said, "is not merely a finding, it's a floodgate" that would "wash over and further submerge our economy." Lincoln issued a statement Thursday morning expressing concerns about the economic fallout of of EPA regulations, and instead proposed that the US reduce emissions by "bipartisan clean energy legislation produced by the Senate Energy Committee," combined with energy tax incentives.

A resolution of disapproval needs only 51 votes to pass, and the Democratic support moves Murkowski closer to that number. Sill, advocates of climate legislation aren't too concerned that her bill would actually become law—the House and the President would both likely reject it. But environmentalists are worried that if a bloc of Democrats votes to prevent EPA action on carbon emissions, this could damage the political prospects for a climate bill in the Senate later in the year.

Murkowski might not have the support of all Republicans in her effort, however. Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are notably not among the cosponsors. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is a cosponsor, but has also very publically supported passing legislation this year, and is working with John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a bill.