House GOP, with the help of a few Dems, Passes Assaults on Safe Workplaces, Safe Communities, and Safe Air

Yesterday, I wrote about how Congressional Republicans are planning to use the little-known Congressional Review Act to repeal a number of public interest regulations issued at the end of Obama’s presidency. The resolutions of disapproval needed to repeal regulations only require a simple majority, and Donald Trump will be a willing signer.

On Tuesday, the House GOP, with a few turncoat Democrats, voted to repeal the Department of Interior’s stream protection rule and the SEC’s resource extraction rule — two regulations that fossil fuel companies have been aching to eliminate. The Senate has since passed both as well, and although there were a few dirty defectors on the Democratic side for the stream protection vote, the vote on the resource extraction was party line.

Coal companies can now pollute streams unchecked, and fossil fuel and mining companies can now bribe foreign dictators unchecked. That is what the American people voted for, right?

The House has since passed three more resolutions of disapproval — 2 yesterday and 1 today.

Unsafe Workplaces

H.J. Res. 37 disapproves of the regulation implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order signed by President Obama in July 2014 and finalized last August. The rule requires prospective federal contractors to disclose violations of federal labor and worker safety laws and gives agencies guidance on how to consider these violations when those contractors are bidding for federal contracts.

“Your tax dollars shouldn’t be going to law-breaking companies” intuitively makes sense, doesn’t it? But businesses want to be able to discriminate against and underpay their employees at will and still get federal contracts. And Republicans want them to be able to as well.

The resolution of disapproval passed 236 to 187.

3 Democrats joined the GOP in voting for it: Lou Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-16), and Henry Cuellar (TX-28). 1 Republican — Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) — voted against it.

Unsafe Communities

H.J. Res. 40 disapproves of a rule from the Social Security Administration (SSA) on the implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Amendments. The rule, which was added to the Federal Register in December, provides for the names of anyone who is receiving benefits from the SSA, has a mental disability, and requires a representative payee for assistance with their finances to be automatically entered into the NICS system, thereby restricting those persons from purchasing a firearm. In other words, Republicans want to make it easier for those suffering from severe mental health problems to buy guns.

The resolution passed 235–180.

6 Democrats joined the GOP in voting for it: Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Ron Kind (WI-03), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), and Tim Walz (MN-01).

2 Republicans, both of whom have strong connections to police unions, voted for it: Dan Donovan (NY-10) and Pete King (NY-02).

Unsafe Air

H.J. Res. 36 disapproves of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Final Rule, published in November. This rule requires oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands. Other parts of the rule require periodic inspection for leaks, the replacement of outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air, and the adoption of best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells. It also clarifies when operators owe the public royalties on flared gas.

Methane is a major source of greenhouse emissions (even more potent than CO2), and the Department of Interior projected that the rule would cut methane emissions by as much as 35%.

Republicans, by and large, do not care about climate change. They do, on the other hand, care about fossil fuel companies’ profits.

The resolution passed 221 to 191.

3 Democrats — Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), and Collin Peterson (MN-07) — voted for it.

11 Republicans voted against it: Ryan Costello (PA-06), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), John Faso (NY-19), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), John Katko (NY-24), Brian Mast (FL-18), Pat Meehan (PA-07), Dave Reichert (WA-08), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Mark Sanford (SC-01), and Elise Stefanik (NY-21). 9 out of the 11 are in Upstate New York, the Philadelphia suburbs, or coastal South Florida.

The Senate will now have to take up the 3 resolutions, and they are all likely to pass.

House Overview

There have been 5 resolutions so far. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) voted for 5, and Jim Costa (CA-16) Collin Peterson (MN-07) voted for 3.

On the Republican side, the most frequent defectors from party line have been Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), who each voted with the Democrats 3 times.



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Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.