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The Senate today turned back two GOP proposals that sought to disapprove of administration rules affecting air quality and Internet access.
The chamber voted 41-56, rejecting a motion to proceed to a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would have repealed an Environmental Protection Agency air quality rule designed to limit power-plant pollution across state lines.
The Senate also defeated a proposal by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) 46-52 that would have halted the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality rules. Both measures were subject to simple majorities.
On the floor, Paul said his proposal was designed to stop the air quality rule from being implemented because it is costly and redundant. The EPA estimates the rule will cost close to $2.4 billion annually, which includes the $1.6 billion already being spent to comply with the previous rule, according to Paul’s office.
“We have rules in place to control emission from our utility plants ,we are not arguing against that,” Paul said. “In fact we are arguing for continuing the same rules that have been in place for some time.”
Republicans have sought to cast Democrats, the White House and the agencies it oversees as overzealous regulators hamstringing small businesses and the economy.
But not all Republicans agree. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) opposed the measure because he believes the rule will help clean the air, a particular concern for his constituents regarding the Great Smoky Mountains. He introduced legislation with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) that would delay the implementation of the rule for one year. Currently the rule would go into effect at the beginning of next year.
The vote marks the first time since Alexander announced in September that he would leave his post as the No. 3 Republican in the Senate that he voted, on a high profile issue, against his friend and leader Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican backed Paul’s resolution.
Alexander argued that the EPA rule will help jobs because car manufacturers and suppliers in Tennessee need air quality permits to operate. He also said tourism in the Great Smokey Mountains would suffer, as would the health of his constituents.
Alexander said he agrees that the administration and the EPA have been overzealous regulators, but he said there are better examples, including “talk of a farm-dust rule.”
If the Paul proposal is a message vote, “What kind of message is it?” Alexander asked. “Is it that we favor dirty air blowing from Kentucky into Tennessee or Tennessee into North Carolina? That we favor not doing our job and turning it back to bureaucrats, lawyers, uncertainty and delay? That’s not a solution.”
The Senate also defeated Hutchison’s proposal to repeal the FCC net-neutrality plan.
In December, the FCC approved a plan it intends to implement that it argues would ensure that Internet-service providers cannot put restrictions on Internet traffic. The agency argues it is of particular concern as Internet-service providers ally themselves with Internet-content providers and might be tempted to favor their traffic over a competitor’s.
Hutchison argued that the FCC rules would constrain the Internet and hinder innovation.
“The success of the Internet should not be tampered with,” Hutchison said.