Could Republicans Not Push Clean Power Plan Riders This Year?

Shelley Moore Capito

Republicans in Congress face a dilemma: they desperately want to have a normal, functioning appropriations process this year but they also view the spending bills as their best shot at killing off some of their least favorite regulations.

Why not try to do both? Because loading up the appropriations bills with policy riders pushing back against Environmental Protection Agency riders, like the Clean Power Plan for instance, would imperil any chance of getting enough Democratic support to advance the bills onto the president for his consideration.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) described this conundrum in an interview Feb. 11, calling the appropriations process “one of our best avenues” to block regulations but warning such an approach comes with “some peril.”

“I believe an appropriations process that can move to the floor and can be debated on the floor is what we’re going to need,” Capito, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. “It may mean that we have to modify some riders. I think that’s a strategy that has yet to be worked out.”

President Barack Obama’s administration has repeatedly vowed not to sign off on any bill that undercuts his domestic efforts to combat climate change. That stance will continue for the remainder of his presidency.

So, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said he felt “very strongly about getting a real, working appropriations process” on Feb. 11, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said in January 2015 that “we need to recommit to a rational, functioning appropriations process,” must decide how to balance those competing aims.  

McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor Feb. 10, said he’s used his position as a Senate appropriator to “push for policy riders in legislation that would undermine or overturn these regulations in their entirety.”

“I’ve repeatedly done so and will continue to do so,” McConnell said. “We’ll keep fighting.”

Exactly what that fight looks like in 2016 will shape up in the coming months.