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White House: GOP Shutdown Threat Is All About Protecting 'Big Polluters'

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AP Photo / Anja Niedringhaus

TPM reported that numerous House and Senate Republicans have expressed interest in using appropriations legislation to prohibit implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on coal-fired power plants. If they demand that as a condition for keeping the federal government running once funding expires on Sept. 30, it could lead to another partial shutdown.

Senate Republican Conference Chair John Thune (R-SD) said Tuesday there's "going to be a lot of support" among Republicans for using the appropriations process to block the EPA rules. He said the GOP will do "anything we can do to prevent the administration from going forward with what are really poorly timed, very burdensome, very expensive ... regulations."

Numerous other GOP senators championed the strategy.

On Wednesday, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a senior member of the environment committee and leading denier of man-made climate change, said he supports using government funding legislation as a vehicle to reverse the EPA rules.

"I would do anything to block it, including that," Inhofe told TPM. "[The regulations] would constitute the largest tax increase in the history of America on the American people and accomplish nothing for it."

The White House is strongly committed to the EPA regulations on coal, the most recent of which aims to slash climate-warming emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Obama sees climate change action as a cornerstone of his presidential legacy. The rules have become an animating force against the president for lawmakers in fossil fuel states, most notably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is facing a strong Democratic challenger in his reelection bid.

It remains to be seen if Republicans will follow through with the strategy at the risk of a partial government shutdown just one month before the congressional elections. If they want to force the issue, House Republicans could pass a government funding bill that reverses the EPA rules. Senate Republicans could make life difficult for Democrats by filibustering funding legislation that doesn't undo the regulations. Eventually it'll be up to GOP leaders in the House and Senate to decide whether -- and how strongly -- to pick the fight.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.