A common strategy for passing unpopular legislation is to launch a swift sneak attack that doesn't allow for much discourse or debate ahead of time and enables lawmakers to get through the process with as little scrutiny as possible.
That's what is happening right now in the US Senate, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is trying to amend a small business bill with the unrelated language from Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton's Asthma Aggravation Act of 2011 (more formally known as HR 910) in order to sneak through a law that would block the EPA from making badly-needed updates to clean air safeguards to protect public health from carbon pollution.
Why do some Senators think that they need to sneak this kind of legislation through? Might be because a whole lot of groups - not to mention the American people - think the politicians in Congress should let the EPA do its job.
As I just blogged this morning, leading health, small business, consumer and veterans groups (not to mention environmental groups) OPPOSE the very language that Senator McConnell is trying to sneak through the US Senate. If enacted, the language would:
"Strip away sensible Clean Air Act protections that safeguard Americans and their families from air pollution." - American Lung Association (ALA) and other health groups.
"Wind up costing consumers money by increasing oil consumption and increasing public harm from pollution." - Consumer's Union
"Will harm America’s economic future by restricting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act...[and] will not help small businesses innovate and create jobs, nor will it help our economy thrive." - Small Business Majority
"A vote for this piece of legislation is a vote to enrich Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and America’s enemies. A vote for this misguided piece of legislation is a vote to endanger America’s troops and security" - Vote Vets
And, labor unions have also weighed in, arguing against Congressional efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act:
"In 2007 the Supreme Court held that the EPA has the authority and responsibility to curb greenhouse gas emissions as a part of its obligations under the Clean Air
Act. It would be a mistake with significant economic and environmental consequences for the 112th Congress to diminish this authority." - Blue Green Alliance
And of course, we know from polling by ALA and NRDC that most Americans, including Republicans and Independents, think Congress should let EPA do its job:
Senators who take seriously the judgment of expert groups and the will of the people they represent should reject this sneak attack on the Clean Air Act.
UPDATE: The Energy and Commerce Committee Voted HR 910 out of committee. I blog about that here:(http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/paltman/meet_the_asthma_aggravators.html)