Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced an amendment to S. 493, a bill dedicated to funding R&D for small businesses.  The legislation, ostensibly introduced to combat the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory implementation of Cap-and-Trade, competes with a more stringent amendment introduced by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

As Americans for Tax Reform has previously reported, the last few years have seen the power of the EPA expand through a litany of invasive and economically disastrous rulings, not the least of which has been its long-awaited scheme to regulate greenhouse gasses (GHG). In an effort to reaffirm Congressional control of the Agency, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act early last year. Intended to prevent the EPA from co-opting the Clean Air Act for regulation of GHG, the Murkowski resolution failed, 53-47. This was due in large part to legislation introduced by Sen. Rockefeller, which proposed a two-year delay for the EPA’s plan but otherwise left the Cap-and-Trade structure intact.  The promise of the neutered Rockefeller bill gave weak  Democrats an excuse to oppose Sen. Murkowski’s legislation while assuring their constituents that they would address the situation.  This turned out to be an empty promise, as Sen. Rockefeller’s bill, mild though it was, never saw the light of day.  This was intended from the start.  In the end, Sen. Rockefeller gave his vote to the Murkowski resolution, but only after his own bill had siphoned off the winning votes.

Fast-forward one year to the exact same situation playing out in the Senate, right now.  The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, co-written by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), stands to achieve everything for which the Murkowski resolution aimed, and more. Introduced as an amendment to S. 493 by Sen. McConnell, the initiative is in danger of defeat under the same circumstances as Sen. Murkowski’s: Sen. Rockefeller has announced his intention to reintroduce his “nerf-gun” legislation, hoping to again stall the issue in congress.  Some Senators will vote for his bill, some for McConnell’s, and everybody gets to tell the folks back home that they stood tough against the federal bureaucrats in Washington.

That Sen. Rockefeller is playing to lose should be all the more galling to his constituents in West Virginia, a state whose vast coal industry stands to be ruined by the EPA’s stated goals.   In his own words, I have long maintained that the Congress – not the unelected EPA – must decide major economic and energy policy… I believe we must send a strong message that the fate of West Virginia's economy, our manufacturing industries, and our workers should not be solely in the hands of EPA.” Sen. Rockefeller is well aware that a mere two-year delay will do nothing to stave off the effects of regulatory Cap-and-Trade: businesses will still be forced to raise prices, lay off workers, and waste massive sums in anticipation of the end-game.  Adding insult to injury, the Senator is presumptuous enough to attack the McConnell amendment, saying This is more of a political ploy, rather than a genuine effort to come up with a solid energy policy." You’d think a man who has lived so long in glass houses would know better.