First Shot Fired in the GOP Battle Against Action on Climate Change

It happened so quietly that few media outlets noticed. But Republicans are already rolling out their strategy to delay — and perhaps even stave off — congressional action to combat climate change.

The Journal‘s blog relays the basic fact: an anonymous senator has placed one of those pesky “holds” used prerogatives to slow down action on the nomination of Lisa Jackson, the president’s pick to head the EPA, as well as the nomination of Nancy Sutley, future head of the Council on Environmental Quality.

Jackson told the Senate environment committee last week that she would quickly re-examine California’s request, backed by more than a dozen other states, to strictly regulate auto emissions. But this isn’t really about Jackson or Sutley …… it’s about Carol Browner, the incoming White House climate and energy adviser. As Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), senior Republican on the environment committee and the leading fly in the climate change ointment, told the Washington Times:

I’m quite concerned that [Sutley’s] role has been diluted by the addition of former EPA Administrator Carol Browner as White House climate and energy czar. The new Senate-confirmed CEQ chair will be expected to have the full authority to represent the White House on all matters before this committee.

By holding up Jackson and Sutley, Senate Republicans are doing more than just signaling their discontent that they won’t get to question and vote on Browner — although Sen. Bob Corker [R-TN] suggests to the Times that Browner be called in for a “quasi-confirmation” hearing. They’re previewing their strategy to knock down the climate regulation bill that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), environment committee chairman, will release later this year.

Here’s how it might look: After Boxer’s climate bill emerges, Republicans would immediately protest the involvement of Browner, a White House adviser who was never fully vetted by the Senate. (Never mind that installing senior aides in the White House to avoid confirmation was a hallmark of George Bush.)

By raising questions about Jackson’s authority over the regulatory process, GOPers would generate media interest in the storyline — Is the president’s adviser interfering to push for stronger action? — and create a drag on the legislative movement to regulate emissions. Senators are already making clear that action on climate change is more likely to come next year than this year, even as House energy and commerce chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) vows to pass a bill by Memorial Day.

Which Republican senator is behind the Jackson and Sutley holds, and how soon can Democrats break the delay? We’ll keep you posted.

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