WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama worked to hammer out a global climate agreement in Paris, Republicans in Congress were moving to block his plan to force steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.
The House was poised to pass two resolutions Tuesday disapproving Obama’s power-plant rules and rendering them inoperative. The measures were approved last month by the Senate under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous. The maneuver is subject to a presidential veto and has rarely been successful.
Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said GOP lawmakers were forcing a vote on the rule to “send a message to the climate conference in Paris that in America, there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Obama wants to reduce carbon emissions, but his policies will kill jobs, increase costs and decrease the reliability of the U.S. energy supply.
And Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he wished Obama took the threat posed by “radical Jihadists” such as the Islamic State as seriously as he takes what Duncan called a “pseudoscientific threat” posed by climate change.
Democrats countered that the power-plant rules were important steps to slow global climate change that is already causing real harm through increased droughts, wildfires, floods and more severe storms.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said it was regrettable that Republicans were trying to block the power plant rules even as officials form more than 190 nearly countries and many of the world’s largest private companies gathered in Paris to work out details of a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The global agreement “will prevent us from further over-heating the earth and causing major disruptions to peoples’ lives, their property and to the global economy,” Pallone said. “We know that (climate change) will endanger our children’s future if we don’t act now.”
The White House has threatened to veto the resolutions, saying they undermine public health protections of the Clean Air Act and “stop critical U.S. efforts to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.”
Speaking in Paris Tuesday, Obama said parts of a global climate agreement should be legally binding. His declaration was both a boost to climate negotiators seeking a tough accord and a challenge to Republicans in Congress, many of whom reject the idea of global warming.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Republicans were in step with the American people, who want jobs and economic growth.
“I think when you weigh the costs and the benefits against these so-called legally binding obligations they don’t add up,” Ryan told reporters. “I think it’s very clear people want jobs.”