Murkowski resolution goes down to defeat in stupid episode that means nothing
[UPDATED WITH RIGHTEOUS BERNIE SANDERS VIDEO]
The Murkowski “Resolution of Disapproval” to overturn the EPA’s endangerment finding on carbon pollution was defeated in the Senate today by a vote of 53-47. Every one of the Senate’s 41 Republicans — including “moderates” considered possible “Yes” votes for climate legislation — voted in favor of it, along with six Democrats: Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Ben Nelson (N.D.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.).
Everything about the Murky Resolution episode has been, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid. Start with the resolution itself: It would have overturned the EPA’s scientific judgment that carbon pollution is a threat to public health and welfare. That is a direct assault, by Congress, on the findings of agency scientists echoing a broad scientific consensus. Our legislature voting to reject scientific findings … wonder how that looks to our international allies.
Then there were the dumb arguments in favor of the resolution. Senators supporting Murky took to the floor, one after the other, to say, “This isn’t about science.” But that’s just false: The endangerment finding is a scientific judgment. Overturning it means overturning a scientific judgment. That’s about science. (Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn couldn’t resist pointing out that he’s a “trained scientist” and in his estimation, the whole climate change thing is hokum.)
Senator after senator called EPA carbon regulations a case of unjustified “overreach” born out of Obama administration and/or EPA “ambition.” But EPA isn’t regulating carbon pollution for kicks. It’s doing so because the Supreme Court said it had a legal obligation to determine whether carbon pollution is a danger to public health, and if it is, regulate it. SCOTUS, not the EPA, put this in motion; the EPA is now bound by law to do what it’s doing. Pro-Murky senators just pretended SCOTUS doesn’t exist. Only Rockfeller let slip the true feelings of the EPA haters: “I don’t care about the Supreme Court,” declared the U.S. senator.
Pro-Murky senators competed to top each other’s hyperbole about how EPA carbon regulations would “cripple the economy.” You may recall that argument from its use in the face of every regulation in EPA’s history. Polluting industries (and the legislators who defend them) have a roughly 100 percent error rate on these matters — the economy has suffered many slings and arrows, but environmental regulations have yet to cripple it — but no mind. Maybe this time’s the charm.
Nobody comes out of this looking particularly good. After an extraordinary amount of political capital spent by environmental groups and a veto threat from Obama, 53 votes was the best they could do just to defend the basics of climate science. Now NGOs and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) are out spinning it as a triumph.
(It should be noted that Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakoka and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who many were nervous would vote for Murky, supported their caucus and deserve some limited kudos, though that’s a pretty low bar.)
It’s quite a spectacle: Senators who oppose congressional effort on climate voting against an agency effort to address climate because they think Congress should address climate. Meanwhile all this titular support for Congress is taken by the media as a sign that there’s no will in Congress to address climate. It’s like reading entrails. What does the Murkowski vote “mean”? It means the Senate is a dysfunctional institution and the climate movement in the U.S. is fatally weak. What does it mean for the climate and energy bill that’s coming in July? Not much. That vote will be determined by the shape of the bill, the state of the economy, and the level of public anger on the oil spill. This was just a sideshow, a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
UPDATE: Here’s some Real Talk from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont: