Commentary Magazine


Topic: senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar

Who Needs Congress?

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

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