Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows: Climate Change Edition

It now appears that Senator Murkowski’s resolution disapproving EPA’s endangerment finding will come to a vote in the Senate sometime in June. The complexity of the political dynamic is highlighted by the speculation regarding what such a vote will mean. On the one hand, there are those who argue that a significant number of votes for the resolution will mean that climate change legislation is dead. On the other hand, Senator Graham has now predicted that the resolution will pass precisely because most Senators do want to pass a climate bill.

As a logical matter, Senator Graham is right. Being against EPA regulation of GHG under existing authority doesn’t necessarily mean that one is opposed to climate change legislation. Indeed, my guess at this point is that at least a plurality and probably a majority of the regulated community supports climate change legislation, but thinks that regulation of stationary sources under existing authority would be a bad idea.

In terms of practical politics, however, it seems likely that there may be very little correlation between Senators’ views on climate change legislation and their vote on the Murkowski resolution. Some senators may vote for it because on the merits they think that GHG should be regulated pursuant to specific legislation enacted by Congress. However, many will just be taking a stand against any government regulation of climate change. On the other side, there may be many Senators who would prefer that climate change be addressed through legislation, but since legislation is not guaranteed, want to be certain that some kind of regulatory program is in place.

Of course, it’s also important to remember that the Murkowski resolution would not just preclude regulation of stationary sources. Because it would disapprove the endangerment finding, it would also jeopardize the carefully negotiated agreement on mobile sources. They aren’t very many people who want to reopen that agreement, I assume.

The world’s greatest deliberative body? We’ll see about that.

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