Angered by Democratic success in the recent budget deal, Republican aim for policy wins in year-end spending package.
By BURGESS EVERETT and SEUNG MIN KIM 11/05/15 05:15 AM EST
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. John Thune and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn during a Capitol Hill press conference. | Getty
Republicans are threatening to jam Democrats with controversial policy riders in December on everything from Dodd-Frank rollbacks to curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency’s powers, hoping to get revenge on a minority that’s spent the past week gloating over a bipartisan budget deal.
With Congress facing a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a year-end spending bill, the drama will focus on GOP attempts to slip significant policy changes into the omnibus package at the eleventh hour and force congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama to swallow them. Republicans are looking past deal-breakers like defunding Planned Parenthood or blocking Obama’s immigration actions, shifting instead to more granular policies they think Democrats could be forced to accept.
“Democrats insisting that there not be policy riders is … a big mistake,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “There’s never been an omnibus bill that didn’t have policy riders. This bill will have policy riders in it, and I think it’s only a process of seeing how many and how far they go.”
Reversing a trend that held steady for several years, federal employees are now happier on the job than they were last year.
In the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the global satisfaction score — which measures workers’ happiness with pay, their individual jobs and the overall organization — rose to 60 percent from 59 percent in 2014. While the increase was modest, it was welcome news to the Office of Personnel Management, which has sought to explain and reverse a governmentwide downward trend in employee satisfaction for several years.
While the news was, just barely, a step in the right direction across the government, several agencies have seen significant regressions over the last few years.
The Republican-controlled Senate has a chance to sent the White House a bill that would impose stricter guidelines on the regulatory process. But President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
The Republican-controlled House this week approved a bill that would impose additional red tape on federal regulators, the people normally dispensing the tape.
The measure, which passed on Tuesday with support from eight Democrats, would require agencies to adopt the least-costly regulations considered during rule-making, with limited exceptions.
The proposal would also add more than 74 new requirements to the rule-making process, many of which would require regulators to carefully document whether they answered questions such as:
* Have you considered the alternative of no federal response?
* Have you considered whether this rule would contribute to the very problem you’re trying to address?
* Are you legally authorized to propose a rule in this situation?
* Have you considered the benefits of alternative rules?
Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement last week that the measure would “rein in excessive regulatory costs.”
Although the bill passed the house, it is unclear whether the new Republican-controlled Senate will bother to vote on it, especially after the White House threatened to veto the measure on Monday.
The White House said in a statement that the proposal would “impose unprecedented and unnecessary procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from efficiently performing their statutory responsibilities” and “create needless regulatory uncertainty.”
The legislation’s supporters have brushed off that thinking, saying the bill would only give the government a taste of its own medicine.
“We feel your pain,” Dan Danner, chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement this week. “It shouldn’t be easy for the government to make life harder for small businesses and individual citizens.”
In order to overcome a presidential veto, Congress would need to pass the legislation with a two-thirds vote, or supermajority, after Obama rejects it. Republicans do not have enough seats in the House or Senate to accomplish that feat on their own.
Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
At this point, Republicans do not have the votes to repeal the E.P.A. regulations, which will have far more impact on curbing carbon emissions than stopping the pipeline, but they say they will use their new powers to delay, defund and otherwise undermine them. Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent skeptic of climate change and the presumed new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to open investigations into the E.P.A., call for cuts in its funding and delay the regulations as long as possible.
The Republicans’ new majority in the Senate also increases their leverage in pushing Mr. Obama to approve the pipeline, although it is still unclear if he will do so.
The White House vowed to fight back. “We know that there will be attempts to impede or scale back our actions,” John D. Podesta, the senior White House counselor who is leading Mr. Obama’s climate agenda, said in a statement on Monday. But he added, “We’re confident we can prevail.”
For Mr. McConnell, fierce opposition to the E.P.A. regulations is more than just a political priority. Kentucky is one of the country’s top coal producers, and coal generates over 90 percent of the state’s electricity. His re-election campaign was driven by a promise to protect Kentucky from what Republicans called Mr. Obama’s “war on coal.”
“I have heard from Kentuckians across the commonwealth about the pain being inflicted on them by E.P.A.’s unilateral actions,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “I fully intend to do everything I can do to fight these onerous E.P.A. regulations.”
Mr. Inhofe has gained headlines throughout his career for asserting that the science of human-caused climate change has been falsified. He is the author of “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” But while Republicans may be able to muster enough of a majority to pass bills that would block or delay the climate rules, it is a near certainty that Mr. Obama would veto such legislation. And Mr. McConnell could not gather the two-thirds majority in the Senate necessary to override a presidential veto.
Still, both Mr. McConnell and Mr. Inhofe are seasoned veterans of congressional procedure, willing and able to deploy a range of tactics designed to slow or hamstring the rules.
Mr. McConnell signaled last week that he, too, wanted to cut the E.P.A.’s budget to keep it from enforcing environmental regulations. Republicans might also include provisions that would repeal the E.P.A. regulations in crucial spending bills — a tactic that could force a standoff between Mr. Obama and Mr. McConnell over funding the government.
Mr. Inhofe was also expected to use his environmental committee chairmanship to hold hearings grilling Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. administrator. As chairman of the committee during the Bush administration, Mr. Inhofe did not hesitate to investigate the environmental policies of his own party. “He was willing to do aggressive oversight during the Bush administration,” said Andrew Wheeler, a former chief of staff for Mr. Inhofe. “This time, it’s going to be very aggressive.”
But some environmentalists said Mr. Inhofe’s assault could backfire politically. “If the Republican Party doubles down on this brand of climate denial, it will go very badly for them,” said David Doniger, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group.
Republicans also planned to use their majority to enact legislation requiring the president to approve the Keystone pipeline. Republicans and the oil industry have issued angry calls for construction of the pipeline, which they see as a crucial conduit for oil. Environmentalists have campaigned against the project, which they see as a symbol of environmental degradation. Mr. Obama has delayed a decision on the project for years, as the State Department conducted numerous reviews of its impact on the nation’s environment, economy and national security.
The State Department is now awaiting a decision by a Nebraska court on the route of the pipeline before any decision is made.
If Republicans send a Keystone bill to Mr. Obama before the Nebraska verdict, the president is likely to veto it. But people familiar with the president’s thinking say that when it comes to climate change policy, Mr. Obama sees the E.P.A. regulations as the centerpiece of his environmental agenda and the Keystone pipeline as a sideline issue.
Asked about the project at a news conference last week, Mr. Obama said, “I’m going to let that process play out.” Then he added, “And I’m just going to gather up the facts.”
Republicans were likely to add a Keystone-approval provision to key spending bills, again daring Mr. Obama to veto such a measure. Mr. Obama appeared willing to veto such measures to protect the climate change rules, which could have an impact on the nation’s energy economy for the coming decades. But he may not be willing to do so for the pipeline, a single piece of infrastructure.
“I think there is probably a deal to be had on Keystone,” said David Goldwyn, who led the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources in Mr. Obama’s first term. “If Republicans attach Keystone to a budget bill, I don’t think he’s so principally opposed to it that he would veto it.”
New Poll Shows Americans Strongly Opposed EPA Shutdown, Look Unfavorably on Those Who Put Our Health and Environment at Risk
WASHINGTON (October 17, 2013) – During the 16 days House Republicans held the federal government hostage to their radical agenda, they put our environment and health at risk, and most Americans didn’t like it. Almost two-thirds of Americans say they opposed the near shut-down of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and they want the EPA back on the job, according to a new PPP poll commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Americans count on the EPA to protect our air, water and health,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs for NRDC. “The House extremists who virtually shut down this vital work were way out of step with the American people. The public understands that the EPA is a needed guardian of our environment and health. They expect protection from pollution – and they wanted our environmental guardians back on the job.”