It’s a shame that so many in Congress are more concerned about Big Oil and King Coal than they are about public health and our children’s future – sadly, that’s what we’ve seen unfold over the past 24 hours, as the Senate voted on legislation attacking the Clean Air Act. The House is expected to vote this afternoon on similar legislation.

Fortunately, our clean air protections will survive this first skirmish, but it was just the first shot across the bow, and we will have to remain vigilant in the days and months ahead. Even as I write this post, news reports indicate this threat to the Clean Air Act is one of the issues at the heart of the deadlock in Washington over the federal budget.

Today’s House vote is expected to go the big polluters’ way. Republicans (and some Democrats) are putting American lives at risk by hand-cuffing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act to enact air pollution protections. Not only is the House expected to vote for this appalling bill proposed by Michigan Representative Fred Upton, but they are also expected to actually reject amendments that would suspend the draconian legislation if it was found to threaten national security or public health.

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Thankfully, the Senate voted down these ill-advised moves yesterday. The most egregious of these attacks, was offered by Senator McConnell of Kentucky and would permanently revoke EPA authority over carbon pollution and weaken fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Fortunately, it failed 50 to 50 (60 votes were required for passage).

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Other bills which would needlessly delay, block or narrow EPA’s commonsense public health protections received limited support, and ultimately failed. Unfortunately, this is far from over, as we expect sights to remain on EPA and the Clean Air Act for the remainder of this session of Congress (which ends in 2012).

Politicians like Congressman Upton and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe are willing to say anything to protect the coal and oil industries that got them elected. Inhofe tried to claim that commonsense EPA safeguards represent the “largest tax increase in [the] history of America,” but the Senator must know this statement is false (even if he prefers not to admit it).

By 2020, the Clean Air Act will have saved Americans $2 billion and saved 230,000 lives. Far from holding back the market, the Clean Air Act has added $2 trillion to the economy.

Instead of working to create good jobs, Inhofe and Upton are attempting to gut the Clean Air Act in order to line Big Oil and King Coal’s pockets.

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This isn’t what Americans need from Congress. We need our leaders to stop endangering millions of Americans and jeopardizing our economy. President Obama must veto any legislation aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act.