True Colors

The U.S. House of Representatives Republican majority recently introduced an appropriations bill that shreds a sizable portion of the nation's environmental protection infrastructure.

The good news is that this Interior Department appropriations bill, which is sure to pass in the House, is unlikely to emerge from the Senate. Even if it does, there wouldn't be enough votes to override President Obama's inevitable veto.

The bad news (from the House Republicans' perspective) is that their exercise in futility shines the spotlight on a prioritization that doesn't play well with a majority of Americans.

These Republican lawmakers insist they want clean air and clean water, and so they do. But here is the catch. They operate from the premise that effective protection of public and environmental health depends on the state of the economy rather than the other way around. Hence, economic concerns, which are usually synonymous with the business community's bottom line, must take precedence.

That is why House GOP members have crammed the Interior Appropriations bill with amendments rolling back environmental regulations. The lawmakers' formal justification is that the regulations overreach at the expense of the economy and job creation. Conspicuously absent in this GOP anti-regulatory onslaught is recognition that without one's health, one cannot hold a job.

The House GOP's environmental vendetta illustrates the proverbial maxim of "knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing." A provision in the appropriations bill would block the regulation of carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Another amendment would delay protection of streams that provide fresh drinking water to 117 million Americans. In prohibiting imposition of a stricter ozone standard aimed at reducing pulmonary disease, House Republicans charge that the proposed regulation is excessive and would damage the economy.

These same lawmakers voted to ban the assessment of the social costs of carbon pollution -- rather odd for a party obsessed with costs until you realize the price tag loses its gravitas when it doesn't fit snugly into the GOP's ideological storyline. Indeed, the cost of illness and environmental degradation, and the money saved if they are prevented, are rarely factored into the equation.

In a bow to the coal industry, House Republicans approved an amendment blocking the federal government's regulatory protection of streams susceptible to contamination from mountaintop surface mining.

Displaying a "penny wise, pound foolish" mentality, lawmakers slashed he Environmental Protection Agency's budget by $718 million or nine percent. So quick are they to quantify the costs of environmental regulations, but rarely the benefits.

Ultimately, their legislative performance is genuflection to the almighty dollar that strips bare the hardened face of the Republican Party.