Rolling back Obamacare will be at the top of many to-do lists for 2011, but a far more significant power grab is underway at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and blocking it should be the first priority of incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton.
The good news is that Upton agrees and has already begun planning to stop the EPA before it can begin the process of asserting effective control over every business and many millions of households in the United States.
In an op-ed Upton co-authored with Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, in Monday's Wall Street Journal and again on my radio show yesterday, Upton promised vigorous action by his committee to halt the EPA's attempt to accomplish via backdoor regulation what the Congress could not pass in 2009 or 2010 --a global warming-inspired, job-killing array of federal rules and commands on any operation or system that emits carbon dioxide.
This is cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax by another name and via an extraordinary power grab sanctioned by President Obama and his environmental "csar" Carol Browner and being executed by one of the most determined of all of Team Obama's big government disciplines, Lisa Jackson, administrator of EPA. The Obama-Browner-Jackson plan is to talk moderately and act radically using the thinnest of legal rationales --a 5-4 2007 Supreme Court decision that did not even present the question of whether EPA had authority to regulate the carbon dioxide emissions of refineries and power plants, which is phase one of the EPA's enormous regulatory plan.
EPA has declared that carbon dioxide endangers the health of Americans, and the agency is using this "finding" to justify regulating anything that emits carbon dioxide. As Upton and Phillips note in their piece, many businesses have recovered from their shock at such a naked grab for power and are fighting back in the courts, but EPA is rushing forward with regulations to try and put its radical overlay on America's private sector before the courts can even respond to the claims. President Obama gets no questions on this somewhat complicated subject from his cheerleaders in the White Hous e press corps and so the largest grab for regulatory control unsupported by explicit legislation in our nation's history moves forward.
Obamacare is a malignancy, yes, and it was a jam down done in defiance of easily recognized voter opinion.
But at least it did pass both houses of Congress and was signed by the president. It was a rotten exercise in constitutional government, but it was the way the laws are supposed to be passed.
This is not the case with the carbon dioxide regulations which claim the Clean Air Act as their legislative authority though the ideas of global warming as a threat and the regulation of carbon dioxide as a solution did not exist in the public consciousness much less on the floor of Congress when the Clean Air Act was first passed or later amended.
The carbon dioxide rules are thus a threat not just to the economy but also to the whole notion of self-government, and are the prime example of where bureaucratized administrative states move when allowed to assert authority unchecked by popularly-elected representatives.
This is where Chairman Upton comes in, and his committee will almost certainly pass blocking legislation and hopefully the Appropriations Committee will defund the EPA's efforts here and in other areas of the agency's operations as well as punishment for such blatant disregard of the people's representatives. A Senate dominated by two dozen endangered Democratic incumbents should help bring the out-of-control EPA to heel. An agency this radical needs gutting and overhaul, not tweaking, and Administrator Jackson needs to be in front of House committees for days on end, under oath and answering the toughest questions about her views on the agency's plans and legal authorities. Ms. Browner needs a subpoena as well backed up by legal action to compel testimony if she asserts executive privilege as President Obama has radically expanded the Office of the Presidency in an attempt to avoid the sort of balance and oversight on which separation-of-powers was premised.
If the EPA is not tamed in 2011, its regulatory reach will grow and grow. The agency has shrewdly begun its government-by-decree via diktats issued to power plants and refineries, obviously hoping that most Americans won't recognize that the precedent being set by these rules will apply to every business or operation in the U.S. that emits carbon dioxide. The fight to stop the EPA from crippling the power grid has immediate consequences to consumers but even greater consequences down the road for every citizen.
The president's willingness to indulge and indeed encourage such radical behavior should be a huge issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. President Obama closed out his disastrous 2010 by talking a moderate game, but the leadership of the GOP Congress should act to focus and keep the spotlight on this expression of the president's deepest instincts about centralized and powerful government rule over the lives of its citizens, whether or not the legislature has approved of the moves.
The GOP presidential candidates who help stop the EPA will also greatly improve their standing across the political spectrum, including among the millions of blue collar Democrats who see in the rise of radicals like Jackson the repudiation of the old New Deal agenda of jobs and economic growth in favor of the rule of technocrats behind desks, writing rules and issuing commands through an army of civil servants.