This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that would have prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring federal agencies to set aside a portion of their budget for research and development initiatives.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) also supported this amendment: “…Perhaps the greatest burden of increased energy costs resulting from these new greenhouse gas regulations will fall upon the elderly Social Security recipients who represent 20 percent of all households in this country and who depend primarily on fixed incomes. They have limited opportunity to increase their earnings from employment. They get hit the hardest. What these regulations are going to do is target and hit the people who can least afford to deal with them.”
Sen. Kay Bailey Huthison (R-TX) also supported the amendment: “It [the amendment] would eliminate the EPA's ability to make regulations in an area that Congress has not authorized it to do. That is what we need to do. Congress needs to take the reins and halt the overregulation that is hurting our small businesses and hurting our economic recovery.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) opposed the amendment: “…Today, we are in the midst of another rapid increase in the price of oil and gas at the pump faced by our constituents. Rather than address this issue in a positive manner, we are once again debating an amendment whose authors believe that they have the expertise to determine that the EPA was wrong to conclude that greenhouse gases are pollutants, despite the preponderance of scientific evidence. The McConnell amendment disregards the advice of leading scientists, doctors, and public health experts by not only overturning EPA's scientific endangerment finding but also telling EPA that it must continue to ignore what America's science experts are telling us about the dangerous impacts of carbon pollution.”
Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR) also opposed the amendment: “Let's start by recognizing that the truth about the McConnell amendment is that it increases our dependence on foreign oil. We have heard something about it driving up the cost of oil….taking away EPA's part of the regulation of mileage standards is estimated to increase our consumption of oil by 455 million barrels.”
The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 50-50. 46 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted “yea.” 49 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 1 Republican voted “nay.” The Senate had been operating under a unanimous consent agreement (literally, an agreement reached by all senators) that required amendments to receive 60 votes for passage. Since this amendment did not receive the support of 60 senators, the amendment failed. However, the amendment would have failed anyway under a normal procedure (in which amendments required a simple majority for passage). As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.