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

The White House fired a warning shot to Republican senators on Wednesday after several of them expressed interest in using a must-pass government funding bill to block the Obama administration’s environmental regulations.

“If Republicans want to repeat their government shutdown play to protect the profits of big polluters, they’re placing a pretty risky bet,” a White House official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter on the record, told TPM.

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.

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