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Banking on the Senate’s Juvenescence

January 4, 2010

Iaian Murray provides an interesting read in the newest version of National Review, dead tree edition (by the way, I don’t feel bad about the pay wall, given that I’m shut out of The New York Times on the reg).  The piece deals with the EPA’s perverse interpretation of its own power and the President’s unsurprising approval, both of which undermine the constitutionally granted power of Congress to regulate commerce.  We’re all aware of the tendency of Congressmen, Republicans and Democrats alike, not to let anyone else regulate the pies into which they themselves have a chance to get their fingers.  For example, elsewhere in the same version of NR, Republican-turned-populist Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) endorsement of Ron Paul’s “Audit-the-Fed” campaign is lamented (with good reason):

The one initiative on which we sharply part company with the senator is his signing off on Ron Paul’s crusade to involve Congress in the Fed’s monetary-policy decisions. There are excellent reasons to insulate the Fed’s workaday monetary operations from the political winds sweeping down from Capitol Hill.  The audit-the-Fed campaign is not about opening the Fed’s books, but about extending Congress’s meddlesome reach, a project that promises destruction. It is Congress, not the Fed, that drives us into debt, and Senator DeMint would do better to stand athwart appropriations than to expand the congressional portfolio.

Even though it seems that the executive branch may be bumping soldiers with its legislative counterpart here, the EPA and the President may be banking on Congress’s intrusive tendency, which has become all-too-predictable, by classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant, enabling the administration to regulate emissions via the Clear Air Act.  As Murray notes, this action clashes with “constitutional niceties such as the separation of powers”—something with which an enthusiastic, nosy Congress would surely not let other governmental branches get away.  Unheard beneath the din of last month’s health-care debate were voices on either side of the aisle on the unilateral usurpation of power by the executive branch.  However, if the President does legitimately threaten to cap greenhouse gas emissions under this “endangerment release”, then it may force Congress’s hand to pass a somewhat-less-obtrusive bill for the sake of its own legislative dominion, if nothing else.  And the President will have the environmental bill that his environmental supporters demanded of him, which might save him some face given the nonexistence of his proposed public option (and the presence of the individual mandate he denounced) in the Senate health-care bill.

The bill, however, would presumably be opposed with even more rigor than was the aforementioned health-care bill, given the distinct possibility that it will buckle the economy’s knees even further while punishing Americans disproportionately for the very air that they exhale.  Unfortunately, the behavior of federal bureaucrats may dictate that they adopt an “if we don’t regulate it, nobody will” attitude, as in the case of Senator DeMint on the Federal Reserve.  Is Congressional power-grubbing enough to un-shelf the cap and trade bill?  If the endeavors of brands of politicians ranging from so-called-conservatives like Jim DeMint to out-in-the-open micro-regulators Barney Frank are any indication, it may just be.

UPDATE: It’s already under way

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