The PJ Tatler

The Potential Incoming Senate Chairman Feared by Congressional Environmentalists

The senator who comes to the floor every week that Congress is in session to plead with colleagues to tackle climate change fears the next possible chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The top Republican on the committee, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), will be running for governor next year. The next-highest GOP on the panel is Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

With a Republican majority in the Senate, he’d take the gavel away from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the committee and that ardent weekly climate-change speaker, told MSNBC that Boxer put the committee in “a very good direction.”

“Having Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who claims that the entire climate change thing is just a big hoax, having him in charge, that really changes things for the worse,” Whitehouse said.

“When the gavel changes, the ability not only to control legislation but to investigate changes, and one of the things we can clearly see coming is the intention of the Republicans to torment the president, either with the kind of mishmash of poison Republican pills attached to must-pass legislation… or just flat out investigations, candidates are using the word ‘prosecute’ about the president and you can get a sense where they’re likely to go,” he said. “Those are two of the things they can do.”

Whitehouse pointed out that one of the “easiest” things Inhofe could do is “refuse to reauthorize EPA because the chairman has a lot of discretion about what goes forward.”

“Once the substance of something comes the committee, then every senator has a bit of involvement but where the really strong stoppers are for them is without a committee chairman, you really can’t get a bill out of committee, and if you can’t get a bill out of committee to the floor, the only way to bring it to the rule is under what’s called Rule 14, where the majority leader brings it directly to the floor and with a Republican majority leader, you’re not going to get it that way either,” he continued. “So, they can essentially shut down legislation.”

Whitehouse has introduced several environmental bills in the 113th Congress.

“They could bill a undo the restrictions on carbon coming out of existing power plants and attach it to, say, the highway bill, and just dare the president: What are you going to do? You’re going to shut down the highway program? And I think they’re less averse to government being broken because of the nature of their philosophy. So if they break it, I think they mind less, even though it’s our American government, and particularly in the environmental area,” the senator said.

“Bear in mind that in the House where they control it already, they have passed more legislation attacking environmental regulations than they’ve passed to repeal Obamacare.”