Senate Votes Down Murkowski EPA Block

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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.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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