Sinema breaks with Dems on effort to overturn Trump power plant rule

Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant near Page, Ariz., in January 2013. Photo by eflon | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

***UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Sen. Sinema’s office.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected Democrats’ attempt to overturn a controversial Trump administration power plant regulation. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema was one of three Democrats who sided with the Republicans. 

Democrats forced a Senate floor vote on a resolution to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant rule, which was seen as a weaker replacement for an Obama-era regulation to clamp down on power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions. 

The effort was seen as largely symbolic, given that Democrats hold 45 seats in the chamber (two independent senators also caucus with the Democrats). The resolution required only a majority to pass, but it fell short by a vote of 41-53. 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who is facing a tough re-election bid next year, was the only Republican who broke ranks to support the effort. Sinema was joined by Doug Jones of Alabama and Joe Manchin of West Virginia in voting with most of the GOP in voting against the resolution.

“Kyrsten voted against repealing the Affordable Clean Energy plan today for the same reason she voted against repealing the Clean Power Plan in 2015. We need bipartisan solutions that protect our air, land, and water and provide flexibility and certainty for Arizona families,” said a spokesperson for Sinema.

Senate Democrats sought to force their Republican colleagues to go on the record backing a Trump rule that critics say falls short of what’s needed to combat climate change.

“The Trump administration’s Dirty Power Scam comes at a time when Americans are demanding we take bold action to confront the climate crisis and it must be reversed,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week when he announced the vote. 

Senate Republicans control the voting schedule in the chamber, but Democrats were able to force a vote using the Congressional Review Act. The law allows Congress to overturn federal agencies’ regulations within 60 days after a rule is finalized. A CRA vote can be placed on the Senate calendar by securing the signatures of 30 members. 

The Trump EPA regulation, dubbed the “Affordable Clean Energy” rule, was put forward as a replacement for President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan.” The Obama measure was a centerpiece of the administration’s efforts to fight climate change and would have set national emission limits for coal-fired power plants. The Trump EPA argued that Obama’s approach was illegal, and gives states far more flexibility over cutting emissions, The New York Times reported in June when the rule was finalized.



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