The GOP-controlled Senate voted Thursday to keep a Trump administration regulation on coal-fired power plants that environmentalists and congressional Democrats alike repeatedly have decried as too weak.
So why did Senate Democrats force the vote in the first place?
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) did so to make some Senate Republicans squirm — and to make sure he remains Democratic leader as his party seeks to regain control of the chamber next year.
“We would like to win. Make no mistake about it,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who sponsored the resolution with Schumer, told reporters Thursday. “But if we don't challenge the other side to put their votes on the board, they could always hide behind the fact that, gee, there was no opportunity.”
In a 53-to-41 vote largely along party lines, the Senate rejected a measure to throw out the rule on climate-warming emissions from power plants finalized earlier this year by Trump's Environmental Protection Agency. The agency's Affordable Clean Energy rule cuts carbon emissions from the electricity sector by less than half of what experts say is needed to avoid catastrophic global warming. And it replaced the Obama administration's 2015 Clean Power Plan, which sought more aggressive limits on carbon emissions in a way that would have forced companies to switch from coal to lower-carbon energy sources.
With the ink is still drying on the final version of the EPA rule, Schumer turned to a little-used legislative tool to force a vote to repeal the regulation. The Congressional Review Act gives lawmakers 60 legislative days to review, and potentially reject, new rulemaking from federal agencies.
But it was always unlikely that Schumer, with only 47 Democratic senators, had the votes to win. Only GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who is up for election in 2020 in Maine, decided to join Democrats and vote for repeal. Meanwhile, three Democrats — Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — all switched sides and voted with Republicans.
But by pushing for the vote, even a losing one, Schumer showed he is willing to go on offense on climate change — an issue of increasing importance both for fellow Senate Democrats and, according to recent polling, the party's voting base.
Under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate has taken few if any votes on stand-alone climate measures. That has given voters a scant legislative record to consider when it comes to an issue that many young voters see as their generation's greatest challenge.
“This vote is all the more important for illuminating” senators' stances, said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, which said it will likely include the vote in its annual environmental scorecard.
Already, Democrats in Colorado, once a swing state that runs blue in presidential elections, are using the vote to attack the state's junior senator, Cory Gardner, who is one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2020. “Senator Gardner has tried to hide his toxic environmental record, but his actual votes override his phony rhetoric,” Morgan Carroll, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement Thursday.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, spent the day decrying the Obama-era coal rule as economically disastrous, especially for coal-producing states. “The jewel on the war on coal's crown was always the Clean Power Plan,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said on the Senate floor.
The use of the Congressional Review Act to try to undo regulations is a new tactic by congressional Democrats. But it is one first dusted off by McConnell, who in 2017 successfully used it more than a dozen times to overturn Obama-era regulations, including ones protecting waterways from coal-mining pollution and banning wolves in parts of Alaska from being hunted in their dens.
Before that, the Congressional Review Act had only been successfully used one other time, in 2001.
Now Schumer is teeing up similar CRA votes on rules regarding preexisting medical conditions and state and local taxes.
— Perry confirms he will be leaving the Trump administration later this year: Energy Secretary Rick Perry told Trump on Air Force One that he intends to resign, The Post’s Tom Hamburger, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report. In a video posted on Twitter, Perry confirmed he would be resigning "effectively later this year."
- What Trump says: Speaking at the opening of a Louis Vuitton factory in Texas, Trump said to applause that he was going to miss Perry “so much.” “He’s done a fantastic job for a long period of time and we really appreciate it. The Department of Energy has far, far progressed from those days three years ago when you took it over so thank you very much,” the president said. Trump also said he plans to name Perry’s successor — which Trump said he and Perry “worked on together” — soon.
- Backdrop to the resignation: It all "comes amid increasing scrutiny of Perry’s role in the administration’s communications with Ukraine. House Democrats have given Perry a Friday deadline by which to produce documents related to the matter,” The Post team writes. “Trump has said Perry asked him to make his July call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but Perry told reporters last week he did it so that the two could talk about energy issues.”
— The G-7 summit won’t include climate talks: The White House announced that Trump has awarded the Group of Seven summit for 2020 to his own golf resort outside Miami. However, administration officials said, although the June meeting will be held in an area grappling with flooded streets from rising seas and worsening heat and humidity amid global warming, the issue of climate change won’t be a priority. “Climate change will not be on the agenda,” Trump’s acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters.
- Climate change might be hard to ignore at Doral: "Miami’s weather in June typically features hot and humid conditions, with the possibility of an early-season tropical storm or hurricane. Hurricane season, after all, starts June 1," The Post’s Andrew Freedman, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin report. "The average daily high temperature in June in Miami since 2000 is 89 degrees, along with an average dew point of 74.5. Those two figures combine to give an average monthly heat index of 99 degrees."
- A “niche” issue? Trump and his officials have been annoyed when climate change has come up at previous G-7 summits. “White House officials described being frustrated that a “niche” issue played such a large role within the G-7. The president has sought to put more emphasis on economic and trade issues, in particular.”
— Should you feel guilty about flying?: A new analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation found 12 percent of Americans are responsible for two-thirds of all air travel — and therefore two-thirds of air travel emissions, the New York Times reports. That small percentage of people make more than six round trips by air a year. “Each of these travelers, on average, emits more than 3 tons of carbon dioxide per year, a substantial amount, particularly by global standards. And the most frequent fliers, those who take more than 9 round trips per year, emit the highest share,” the Times reports. “If all Americans flew more than six times a year, the use of aviation jet fuel would increase about sixfold, and planes would easily surpass passenger cars as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions.”
— Job cuts in coal country: The amount of coal U.S. miners are producing is at its lowest level since 2011 — that year, coal companies slashed nearly half their workers, Bloomberg News reports. “It’s highly likely there will be more layoffs,” Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, told Bloomberg. “I don’t think there’s any question.”
— Ex-Koch chemical expert discussed toxic chemicals even with recusal plan: David Dunlap, a Trump official leading the EPA's research office, participated in discussions about a health assessment of formaldehyde despite plans to recuse himself from the issue. The former chemicals expert for Koch Industries told EPA ethics officials he intended to avoid the issue, Politico reports, but he was involved in email discussions related to the health assessment.
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management holds a hearing on federal recovery efforts after recent disasters on Oct. 22.
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on the Pebble Mine Project on Oct. 23.
— “It is quite simply the perfect moment”: Chinese photographer Yongqing Bao captured the moment a Himalayan marmot met a feeding Tibetan fox in a photo awarded first place in a contest sponsored by London’s Natural History Museum. In a news release, the director of museum said the plateau where the photographer waited to capture the image is “often referred to as the ‘Third Pole’ because of the ‘enormous water reserves held by its ice fields.’ The area, he said, is under ‘threat’ because of ‘dramatic temperature rises’ attributed to global climate change,” The Post’s Katie Mettler writes.