Curiouser and Curiouser: How the Hill Is Handling Being in the Hole

Crossposted with

In the words of Alice, "It would be so nice if something made sense."

Alice, of course, was talking about the strange wonders she encountered after tumbling into the rabbit hole. But you don't have to fall into a rabbit hole to encounter uncommon nonsense. Following the antics of our Congressmen and Congresswomen while passing a continuing resolution on the budget does quite nicely, thank you.

The House Goes on Record in Favor of Air Pollution

In a 249-to-177 vote, the House approved Amendment 466, proposed by Texas Representative Ted Poe (R), that prohibits funds from being used by the Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce any requirements or issue permits for stationary source emissions of six greenhouse gas pollutants [pdf] (i.e., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons). OK, no surprise there.

The House also forbade expenditures "to develop, promulgate, evaluate, implement, provide oversight to, or backstop total maximum daily loads or watershed implementation plans for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed." I find this to be an elegant solution to the annual dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay. Outlaw any evaluation of the problem. Consider this: is there a dead zone in the Chesapeake if no one can evaluate it?

Another amendment would forbid EPA from promulgating regulations on coal ash. A great idea as long as you don't live near a coal-ash retention pond.

And still another would prohibit the "use of funds by the Environmental Appeals Board to consider, review, reject, remand, or otherwise invalidate any permit issued for Outer Continental Shelf sources located offshore of the States along the Arctic Coast." Wow, to even "consider" invalidating a permit is prohibited. How do you suppose that will be enforced? Rumor has it that Congress is going to install laser-equipped mind readers in the offices of all environmental officials. If anyone even thinks about (i.e., considers) a permit for the outer continental shelf, the mind reader will zap him into a little pool of oil. It's a win-win -- the oil from the zapping will help to balance the budget by adding to our domestic supplies of oil! 

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Negotiators

In an effort to balance the budget (I guess every penny counts), the House eliminated the salary for Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change who serves as the nation's chief negotiator at the United Nations global warming talks. In case you didn't know, our participation in these talks (formally called the Conference of the Parties) is mandated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of which the United States is a signatory. And by the way, we signed on to the UNFCC in 1992 -- when a Republican was in the White House.

But maybe our reps aren't against the country honoring its commitments; they just expect the U.S. negotiator to participate on his own dime. After all, times are tough and we've got to trim the fat somewhere and that means sacrifices ... for some, anyway.

All this might lead you to think that the House folks are just mindless budget-cutters. Nope, they have their priorities and there is a line in the fiscal sand they have refused to cross. While Mr. Stern's salary was on the chopping block, our reps courageously beat back an amendment that would have halted the Defense Department's sponsorship of Nascar. (Yes, for those who don't know, the U.S. Army uses race-car sponsorship as a recruiting tool; other branches of the military did away with this funding a while back.)

And how much do we taxpayers spend to keep the cars racing around the track? Can't say for sure, but it is reportedly more than $19 million. (The sponsor of the amendment, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN), puts it at "tens of millions of taxpayer funds.") Whatever the exact figure, I'd bet a bucket-seat of greenbacks that it's more than Stern gets paid. (See roundup of the amendments that successfully made it into the continuing resolution bill, known as H.R. 1.)

God Gets Into the Act

Last week's antics were not limited to the U.S. House floor. In Minnesota, Mike Beard, a Republican state representative apparently channeling U.S. representative John Shimkus (R-IL), invoked the great Representative in the Sky to justify his stance against renewable energy and his support for coal-fired power plants.

In an interview with, Beard is quoted as saying: "God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything." I guess words like famine and drought have not made it into the Minnesotan's lexicon. Beard went on the say that "it is the height of hubris to think that we could [destroy the planet]. ... God gave us our minds, creativity and ingenuity, and that is our most valuable natural resource."

Thank the Lord that our creativity and ingenuity do not include the ability to make bombs so powerful they can destroy whole cities and with enough of them an entire planet. Oh ... my bad.

So what's going on? One theory is that our reps in the House are determined to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do not have a green bone in their esteemed (or maybe it's just steamed) body. (We'll know for sure if they withhold the salary of any government employee who wears green on St. Paddy's Day.)

Another theory is that our reps, frustrated at losing out to China in exports, have decided to try to outdo the Chinese in the race for the worst environment.

The most curious thing I ever saw in my life.