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Last Minute House Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping anti-environmental bill as their last act before leaving Washington D.C. until after the November elections.

The bill is called the Stop the War on Coal Act (SWCA), H.R. 3409, and applies to more areas than just the coal industry. It is a package act of four previously passed House GOP bills, plus another one aimed at blocking pollution standards.

The bill is full of industry deregulations, and begins the far-right position of dismantling the EPA: eliminating clean car standards, nullify mercury and air toxic standards, weaken the Clean Water Act and block efforts to reduce damage from coal mining.

The bill has little chance of getting through the Senate, and has been under threat of veto from the White House. 19 House Democrats joined with nearly all House Republicans, resulting in a landslide victory. Republicans claim this bill will spur job growth by allowing deregulated industry to spend money on hiring instead of taxes, but economists say it won’t create jobs and will increase job dangers.

Many House Democrats are upset with the decision to take action on this bill instead of working on more imperative bills, namely the budget, the farm bill and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. It isn’t surprising House Republicans chose to take action on the SWCA, given the known relationships between Republicans and anti-environmental special interest groups, but it is surprising they would acknowledge the extent of the relationship by making this their final business before elections.

In a time when voters are frustrated with the amount of money and interest group influence in politics, why would House Republicans prove they are influenced by those externalities? It appears the Republican far-right transition is complete, at least in the House.

Despite harsh criticism from House Democrats, it must be recognized they have had an inability to reliably pass pro-environmental legislation. It is difficult when not in the majority and the other party has no interest, but it still needs to be recognized. As a result, the upcoming election is critical for environmental legislation.

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