The Murkowski amendment, which is currently heading to the Senate floor for a vote, is around one sentence long. It's simple, and potentially devastating. It's solely stated goal is overturning the endangerment finding filed by the EPA that ruled greenhouse gases are a harmful pollutant, and threaten public well-being. Which would both effectively stop the EPA from being able to clamp down on the nation's heaviest greenhouse gas polluters and toss Obama's new, highly touted national fuel economy standard into the trash heap. Here's what you need to know: First, that this amendment, sponsored by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will never, ever turn into law. It's 100% a political maneuver designed to deliver a public referendum on Democrats -- and especially, Obama's -- energy policy. This is why: even if the amendment passes the Senate, it will head to the House for a vote. The House will almost surely vote it down. But even if they don't, Obama would veto it. And there's no way Congress could come up with a 2/3rds vote to overrule his veto on this issue.
So, what's the point? Well, there are a couple: first, it would be politically embarrassing to Obama to have to veto an amendment voted in by his own Democratically-controlled Congress. But further than that, there's the narrative that the media has gone with: that it offers a litmus test as to the support that climate legislation would be able to muster. If the amendment passes, it will serve as a rebuke to the very notion of regulating greenhouse gases, or at least so say the chattering classes.
And to some extent, that will certainly be the case. But for the most part, the vote will fall on party lines -- Republicans opposing climate action, as usual, Democrats (except for a few moderate, oil-and-agriculture-interests-beholden ones like Landrieu and Lincoln) will support it. Republicans that vote against the amendment will raise eyebrows, Dems that vote for it will too. The reactions and statements from the senators will be more interesting. The important thing to remember is that nobody wants the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases -- legislation is far preferred to charging a massive bureaucracy with task.
But the EPA's ability to step in to clamp down on polluters is important, and needs to be retained, should consequences grow dire enough. Same goes for the important fuel economy standards. For a much more informative and eloquent take on why the EPA's endangerment finding needs to be preserved, read EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's written response on the subject.
UPDATE:The vote just occurred, and the amendment was struck down 47-53, along the predicted lines. More anlysis tomorrow.
More on the Murkowski Amendment
Murkowski's "Dirty Air Act" Gets Help from Democrats
Why is GOP Senator Lisa "Dirty Air" Murkowski Calling for a Carbon Tax?