Battle Over Clean Air Act Behind Looming Government Shutdown

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Photo credit: Abeeeer via Flickr/CC BY

It should be clear to anyone capable of abstract thought that the looming 'government shutdown' is less a battle over spending cuts than one over political ideologies. Multiple reports have been trickling out over the last few days that reveal what the Democrats and Republicans are actually butting heads over -- and it's not primarily the amount that gets trimmed from the discretionary spending in the budget. The real fight is over whether or not the GOP will succeed in scaling back funding for Planned Parenthood and rolling back the Clean Air Act. The New York Times reported yesterday that

"Mr. Reid said that Republicans had "drawn a line in the sand" on issues of abortion financing and changes to the Clean Air Act, and that those issues could not be resolved in the hours left before a government shutdown. "The numbers are basically there," Mr. Reid said on the floor of the Senate. "But I am not nearly as optimistic, and that's an understatement, as I was 11 hours ago. The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology."
The LA Times' headline reads 'Clean air, abortion divisions may cause shutdown.'

The battle over whether or not the government will continue to allow Planned Parenthood to carry out vital health services to the nations' poor is indeed an important issue. But let's focus on the attack on the EPA and the Clean Air Act. The GOP is essentially attempting to insert 'riders' into the federal budget that would prevent the EPA from regulating the nation's largest carbon polluters under the Clean Air Act -- which it has been mandated to do by a 2007 Supreme Court decision.

The GOP knows now that the Clean Air Act-gutting bill that just passed the House of Reps won't make it through the Senate (four similar amendments were defeated yesterday) and would be vetoed by Obama even if it did. So Republicans are still trying to cram a similar measure through the budget process -- threatening Obama and the Democrats with the prospect of government shutdown if they don't agree to roll back the EPA's ability to crack down on pollution. It's one of their last chances to prove to their coal and oil industry buddies that they're willing to do double time for them.

And that's pretty much the gist of what we're seeing here: Essentially, the GOP is putting the very functionality of the American government at risk in order to fight to protect the interests of the nation's largest polluters. And they'll certainly be rewarded with stuff like campaign financing, political support, and fancy cigars. Never mind that the Clean Air Act is designed to protect the health of the American public, or that the EPA is now among our nation's last means of significantly addressing climate change (which, surprise!, scientists are still say is man-caused and must be addressed), or that the vast -- seriously, vast -- majority of Americans want Congress to leave the EPA alone.

The GOP is willing to fly in the face of all of that -- scientific consensus, general opinion, and the well-being of the American public -- and risk shutting down the federal government in the process, to please its corporate benefactors. Nice.

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