With that understood, it's a little easier to decipher last session's H.R. 910, also known as the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. Despite the name, the purpose of the bill was not to reduce the (ridiculously low) federal tax on gas, or to reduce the (ridiculously low) rate that corporations pay for rights on federal land, or even to reduce the (ridiculously low) level of efforts made to develop alternative energy sources. Here's the purpose of that bill:
To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes.That's about as clear as it can be, but just to restate for those still shaking off the shock, it was a bill to make it impossible for the EPA to do anything about greenhouse gases. Not just to keep the EPA from levying any sort of theoretical fee on carbon emissions, but to stop the EPA from even thinking about the climate.
Mind-blowingly stupid as this idea might be, the bill passed the House. Not only did it pass, it passed with 19 Democrats voting in favor. Democrats who voted to strip the EPA of the right to regulate greenhouse gases or take any action on the basis of climate change:
Sewell, Terri AL 7th
Ross, Mike AR 4th
Costa, Jim CA 20th (16th in 113th)
Bishop, Sanford GA 2nd
Barrow, John GA 12
Boswell, Leonard IA 3rd
Costello, Jerry IL 12th
Donnelly, Joe IN 2nd
Chandler, Ben KY 6th
Peterson, Colin MN 7th
McIntyre, Mike NC 7th
Boren, Dan OK 2nd
Schrader, Kurt OR 5th
Critz, Mark PA 12th
Holden, Tim PA 17th
Altmire, Jason PA 4th
Cuellar, Henry TX 28th
Matheson, Jim UT 2nd
Rahall, Nick WV 3rd
Strange as their votes may seem, a good number of these representatives were in red states, including some that were major producers of coal or oil. So the vote may have been to avoid the wrath of red state voters or the deep pocketbooks of energy companies. Let's see how that worked for them.
In April of 2011, when this bill passed the House, there were 192 Democrats and 241 Republicans in that body. Since then, that number has changed to 200 Democrats and 233 Republicans. How did the no regulation of the EPA bunch fair? In a year where Democrats gained in the House, the "no climate change regulation" group surrendered a third of their seats.
Why didn't the votes help hold onto their seats? Because to Republicans convinced that any name followed by a (D) was equivalent to voting for Stalin, these votes were invisible. For Democrats looking for leadership, the vote was evidence that these representatives all too readily put their careers ahead of their principles. If you made it into a book, it would be "How to Lose Friends and Not Influence Enemies." Everyone can tell when you're just voting in the hopes of saving your ass, and everyone knows what that means. It means you're a coward.
While we're looking at this bill--which was introduced by Michigan Representative Fred Upton, author of such sterling work as the No More Solyndras Act to eliminate tax breaks for solar and wind power and the Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act to provide more funds for oil pipelines, and Kentucky Representatives Ed Whitfield, popularly known as "the congressman from Exxon"--note that absolutely no Republicans voted against eliminating the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Not one.
That means when you see New Jersey or New York Republicans complaining about their leadership's failure to provide funds for Hurricane Sandy, it comes a year after those same congressmen voted to make sure that no one could act to prevent rising seas and stronger storms. When you see Republicans in the plains states complaining about the unprecedented drought, it comes on the heels of their voting to ensure disruption of the climatic pattern will increase.
So buck up, Sandy survivors and hang in there dry land farmers. Your congressmen might be voting to ensure that you'll face increasing disasters, but they'll cry on your behalf afterward. Hey, a lot of Republicans think of being able to get into the ER at a public hospital when you're seriously ill as a perfectly adequate form of health care. Same thing.
Representative Upton has already stated his intention to reintroduce the Energy Tax Prevention Act in the new Congress.