Democrats outraged after Senate GOP plus Manchin vote to block new EPA truck emissions regulation

 April 28, 2023

The nominally Democrat-controlled Senate voted 50-49 on Wednesday to block new stricter emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks from the Environmental Protection Agency that are supported by President Joe Biden, The Hill reported.

Some Democrats lashed out against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for joining with Republicans in opposition to the new EPA truck emissions rule, while others directed criticism for the outcome toward Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who remains absent from the Senate for health reasons and was not able to vote in support of the EPA rule.

All of the chaos and finger-pointing may be a moot point, however, as President Biden has vowed to veto the GOP resolution to block the EPA rule, and it seems unlikely that Senate Republicans can muster the bipartisan two-thirds majority necessary in the near-evenly split chamber to override such a veto.

EPA strengthened already strict truck emissions regulations

It was in December 2022 that the EPA announced a new final rule, Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles: Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards, that further strengthened the agency's already strict emissions standards for heavy commercial vehicles like semi-trucks and busses.

Beginning with model year 2027 vehicles, the final rule includes "new, more stringent emissions standards that cover a wider range of heavy-duty engine operating conditions compared to today's standards, and it requires these more stringent emissions standards to be met for a longer period of when these engines operate on the road."

The EPA added, "This final rule is consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order, 'Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks,' and is the first step in the Clean Trucks Plan."

Manchin joins GOP to block EPA emissions rule

Citing the authority of the Congressional Review Act to overturn new executive branch regulations, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced a resolution to block the more stringent emissions standards imposed by the EPA that will substantially raise the costs of new heavy-duty vehicles, put small trucking operations out of business, and, ironically, incentivize companies to try and fully maximize the lifespan of older and less efficient trucks for as long as possible.

Following the 50-49 passage of the resolution, Fischer said in a statement, "As families suffer under the burden of high inflation, the last thing we need are more expensive freight costs and fewer truckers."

"Today, the Senate took bipartisan action to stop yet another aggressive Biden regulation that would drive up costs for consumers, increase vehicle costs, and hurt good-paying jobs," she added. "This regulation is jeopardizing our economy, and I look forward to the Republican-controlled House taking up our legislation."

Sen. Manchin actually co-sponsored Fischer's resolution and said in a Wednesday statement, "The last couple of years have shown that truck drivers keep our country moving. However, the Biden Administration wants to burden the trucking industry with oppressive regulations that will increase prices by thousands of dollars and push truck drivers and small trucking companies out of business."

"When our country faces record-high inflation and vulnerable supply chains, we cannot let the EPA continue to seize unrestrained power and create regulations that devastate our economy. I am proud to support this resolution to stop this government overreach," he added.

Khanna blames Feinstein, renews demand for her to resign

Sen. Feinstein, who remains absent as she recovers from a case of shingles, was unable to cast a vote in support of the EPA rule that would have resulted in a 50-50 tie that would then have been decided in favor of the regulation with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who has been outspoken in his suggestion that it is time for Feinstein to resign and be replaced, used the passage of the Republican-backed bill in the nominally Democrat-controlled chamber to reiterate his call for the elderly California senator to step aside.

Khanna tweeted on Thursday, "Because Senator Feinstein was absent, the Senate overturned a Biden rule that would cut pollution from heavy duty trucks and causes harm to people’s lungs. We are putting decorum over democracy and our values. It’s time for Senator Feinstein to step down gracefully."

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