By Iain Murray
The Senate undermined its constitutional role last week with a vote that allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The 53 senators favoring this huge delegation of authority to the executive branch disregarded the principle of separation of powers. The low quality of the debate that preceded the vote, as well as its result, should put an end to the Senate’s reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body.The motion being debated and voted on was simple. It was to disapprove the ruling by the EPA, known as the endangerment finding, that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. According to the terms of the Congressional Review Act, under which Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, brought the motion, the resolution would have terminated the legal force and effect of the finding. It was most assuredly not a vote on the science upon which the EPA based its decision.
Yet this was the prime argument used by the resolution’s opponents. Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, for example, compared the motion to a vote to repeal the law of gravity. This was possibly the most embarrassing Senate argument since former Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, insisted that the Internet was “a series of tubes.” It also set up a straw man. Nothing in the resolution sought to overturn one word of the scientific case for global warming – or even mentioned it.