Monday, June 14, 2010

Bureaucracy Wins Another Round

In a slightly reversed form of government disdain for private enterprise, the Senate on June 10 voted to hand exceptional power to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before it had even assumed the power for itself. The chances of the Obama administration getting a strong cap'n tax plan into acceptable legislative form this year have been diminishing for months now.

So rather than allow energy to be produced without governmental interference, the Senate refused to pass legislation limiting the power of the EPA to control carbon emissions. Hostility toward a sweeping cap 'n tax energy proposal has been more and more vocal as the statist tendencies of the Obamacrats have become ever more obvious to the average man in the street. Since the chances of passing such a bill have faded almost into obscurity, the left did the next best thing. It allowed the power of the people through their elected representatives to be passed on to career doctrinaire environmentalist bureaucrats.

Knowing what the Democrats were planning, Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill which would effectively have blocked the EPA from regulating carbon emissions and greenhouse gases utilizing current law. The greenie weenies were able to eke out a victory by defeating the measure on a 53 to 47 vote. But the vote was a sign of trouble to come for the regulators in both the Congress and the bureaucracy. Since the vote did not create any new powers for the already overly-powered EPA, it didn't require the Democrats to take the dangerous step of actually passing new and outrageously intrusive legislation. It was a reprehensible act of cowardice motivated purely by political forces, and a further confirmation of the delegation of power from elected representatives to faceless bureaucrats.

Yet no matter how pretty a face the Democrats tried to put on this power grab, it was clearly a desperation move. If they had the votes and the support of the general populace, they would have skipped this step entirely and gone on with the massive legislation they originally planned. More of a realist than some of her fellows, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said "We need to pass a cap-and-trade bill. I think it can certainly get passed next year; it can't this year."

Congress could still pass legislation which controls carbon-pricing as early as July, but it won't be the sweeping powers that the left really wants over this huge segment of the economy. Democratic Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman have already broken the pricing scheme out of their revised proposed legislation, hoping that they can sneak the whole plan past the public piecemeal. The House version which did pass was too all-inclusive to get past the Senate, so a compromise version is now necessary. The soon-to-be ex-Senator Harry Reid had another one of his accidental truthful moments when he announced that the Democrats will force energy legislation early next year, but qualified his statement by saying "it won't be branded as cap-and-trade." Sorry, Senator, the smell of skunk doesn't become pleasant because you decided to rename it perfume.

The big glitch for the Democrats is that defeating legislation such as Murkowski's by a narrow partisan margin isn't going to work for the big bill. A strange 2007 Supreme Court decision determined that the EPA, with proper enabling legislation, could make independent determinations about the regulation of greenhouse gases, so the defeat of Murkowski's proposed bill didn't change anything. Pure cap 'n tax is another story entirely. Not only does it create and enumerate powers that never previously existed in the area of energy policy, but it requires the expenditure of huge sums of the public's money. That requires a sixty vote majority in the Senate, and the defection of seven Democrats on something as simple as Murkowski's proposal is an indication of a major rebellion later on.

For the new and massive cap 'n tax governmental takeover, the Democrats would have to pick up one Republican vote, and absolutely every single Democratic vote. That is unlikely in the extreme. First of all, skepticism about the relationship between carbon emissions and climate-change (formerly known as global warming) has reached epic proportions. Furthermore, even liberal Democrats in Congress are willing to go along with the idea that it would take at least two years for the research, creation of infrastructure, and preparation of training necessary to implement any kind of massive legislation in the energy arena.

Six Democrats sided with the Republicans on the Murkowski proposal. That was not fatal to a simple majority, but it would be the death knell for cap 'n tax in anything like its recently proposed manifestations, since it can't be passed if there is even one Democrat defection. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia was one of the defectors on the Murkowski bill, and he has gone so far as to introduce a proposal that the EPA be restrained from exercising its now established power over greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources for two years. That proposal is very close to Murkowski's, except that unlike Murkowski's, it has an end date.

The important issue here, beside the obvious, is that Congress ought not ever to delegate such massive powers of determination, analysis, control of a major portion of the economy, and quasi-criminal enforcement to a bureaucracy which is not responsive to the will of the people. It is a questionable constitutional delegation of power (the Supreme Court decision made a much narrower determination), and it is certainly an anti-democratic proposal. The political camps break down into those who wish America could be more like Europe in its dependence on "professional" bureaucrats, and those who hold the Founders in high esteem for choosing not to be like Europe. I'm not sure about the short term, but in the long term, my money is on the side of the Founders.


Joel Farnham said...


Great Post. I do think that the EPA has outlived it's usefulness and should be relegated to the ashcan of history. It might not happen in my lifetime, but that is a laudable goal.

Maybe the next Congress could lower the EPA's budget?

AndrewPrice said...

This is so typical of what's wrong with our government today. Congress makes vague laws, agencies expand them beyond all recognition, and courts look the other way. Something's got to change.

Unknown said...

Joel: About 90% of the alphabet agencies should be eliminated, but the EPA currently holds the top spot for dangerous mischief at the expense of the public and at the risk of representative democracy.

The budget should be cut drastically, but the big issue is taking away the broad powers that Congress has allowed the agency to assume without guidance, legislation or direction. The Supreme Court may yet have to decide on this delegation of such extensive powers, and it also tells us why Obama must go and be replaced by a conservative Republican before the balance shifts 5-4 to the left.

Unknown said...

Andrew: And as you may have guessed, I believe that "something" is the courts. I suspect we'll have a new president in 2012 and a radically changed Congress this November, but politicians are politicians, and I expect better of the highest court in the land.

Tennessee Jed said...

As pointed out in the introduction to Cato Institute's pocket Declaration and Consitutuion, this is so far drom what the framers intended it defies belief.

Joel Farnham said...


Here is a nasty thought. Remember Alvin Greene? The surprise winner in South Carolina? There might be voting shenanigens being tested there with his win. It is out lined by a blogger from American Thinker.

Could it be that this election was a test?

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Glad to hear that you keep a copy of the Cato pocket reference as well. It should be on everybody's desk at all times, most particularly the desks of Congress and the White House. It wouldn't hurt if at least four members of the Supreme Court perused it occasionally as well.

Unknown said...

Joel: I had seen the article at Ace of Spades. It sounds like a major portion of the Cook County/Chicago contingent has moved to South Carolina. I guess if you're going to steal an election, you might as well steal big.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--This is also a cautionary tale about electing not just Republicans, but conservative Republicans. George H W Bush signed the godawful Americans With Disabilities Act which created a hundred times as many problems as it solved, and good old Richard Nixon signed the EPA into existence. Bush the younger didn't even find his veto pen until halfway through his second term.

Joel Farnham said...


Off topic. I am starting to see law makers and law enforcers hitting or pushing the regular people around.

Etheridge this weekend and Governor Spencer of Greensboro a couple weekends ago.

Sounds like there are some really bad things happening higher up.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: Republican presidents need to learn the basic lesson that "it looked good on paper" just isn't good enough.

Unknown said...

Joel: It really is turning out to be one helluva year for politicians. That's at least the third time some politician has gotten into a shoving match with a constituent. On the other hand, if they shove a reporter or TV person around, I think that's justifiable self-defense. LOL

Unknown said...

Quick reminder for our readers: Today is flag day. For those who don't fly the flag daily, this is one of those special days. I am now lucky enough to have the flagpole I've wanted for years, and my first act every morning is to run Old Glory up. And where I'm living now, that makes me mainstream rather than a guy who clings to his guns, Bible--and flag.

StanH said...

It’s amazing to me how we’ve flummoxed Barry and his minions with zero political power. They moved healthcare through by the skin of their teeth, and Cap-n-tax is on life support. They must try an end around to defy the will of the people. “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Consent denied!

Hey Lawhawk have you thought about a dog? …you’ve mentioned several in several posts about a new beast. In the country, a dog would be great fun.

Unknown said...

Stan: A bureaucracy which is responsible only to itself is about as great a danger to the republic as I can think of. Let's hope this trend has crested, and we can get back to power being exercised by removable elected representatives. And one of the powers they should be exercising is restraint.

I had been tossed between a mastiff and a St. Bernard, since I've had one of each over the years, and loved them both. But it turns out there's a Great Pyrenees breeder in the area, and they're perfect dogs for this climate and this terrain. It gets too hot for a Saint, and it's likely to be the same for a mastiff. So I think I'll settle on one of those, barring some intervening change of mind. They have two coats, and they shed the winter coat while the undercoat leaves them cooler during the summer. They're also herding dogs and family protectors, so that will help with the grandkids.

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