GOP Senators Warn that Climate Pledges Must Be OK’d

Speaking to the Senate press corps Thursday, a group of Republican lawmakers offered a warning to the Obama administration that any long-term pledge of U.S. money for climate aid at the Copenhagen summit would need approval from Congress.

Responding to news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pledged up to $100 billion a year to help developing nations pay for the costs of climate change, six GOP senators said that any substantial Copenhagen agreement would need to pass the 60 vote Senate threshold.

“The actions of the administration have raised concerns on our part that the president believes he has the authority to bind the united states to some kind of international agreement without action by the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

Kyl pointed out that money going to developing nations would include China, which owns a sizable amount of U.S. debt.

“So I guess we borrow the money from China and then we give it to China. Maybe that’s what’s being discussed in Copenhagen. But the U.S. Senate will have to have its say on that,” Kyl said.

Kyl was joined by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., and John Barasso, R-Wyo., at the press conference.

Murkowski and Graham also voiced criticism against the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent finding that greenhouse gases pose a danger human welfare. That finding opens the door for new climate regulations.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is the leader of the Congressional delegation to Copenhagen. He made a statement last week praising the EPA endangerment finding as an important signal of the importance of climate change legislation.

“The message to Congress is crystal clear: get moving. If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration is more than justified to use the EPA to impose new regulations,” Kerry said in a Dec. 7 statement.

In an interview in Copenhagen with the NewsHour’s Ray Suarez on Tuesday, Kerry also referenced some the concerns circling on Capitol Hill: “Some of my colleagues, like leaders elsewhere, seem reluctant to grapple with the climate crisis that for them seems rooted in future dangers, when they are confronted with pain of tough financial times.”

Graham and Murkowski, meanwhile, argued that the legislative branch is best suited to determine how the U.S. government addresses climate change.

Graham in particular has been an outspoken on the need for legislation that prices carbon emissions — but said he wants to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate carbon in order to leave that business to the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA, under the Clean Air Act, had the power to regulate carbon emissions. Murkowski plans to introduce a “joint resolution of disapproval” in the Senate that, according to Murkowski’s office, would effectively veto the endangerment finding, if it were to successfully pass the House and Senate and be signed by President Obama.

Murkowski spokesperson Robert Dillon said if Murkowski gets 30 signatures she could force an up or down vote on the resolution. But Dillon acknowledged that it was unlikely that the Democratically-controlled U.S. House would also pass the resolution, but said Murkowski would continue to pursue the measure.