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Senate Democrats Join Republicans in Passing Resolution to Strip Away Biden Climate Rule

A look at the I90/I94 Highway in Chicago near the Washington Blvd exit.
Source: Tony Webster/Wikimedia

On Wednesday, the US Senate passed a resolution 53-47 to do away with a Biden-era Transportation Department rule that attempted to limit greenhouse gas emissions on America’s highways.

Senate Res 61 saw Democrat Senators Joe Manchin III, John Tester, and Sherrod Brown join their Republican colleagues to get the vote to pass the majority threshold. Independent representative from Arizona Krysten Sinema also joined the Senate Republicans to approve the resolution.

Democratic senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin III has been a frequent critic of Biden, in the past calling the rule “illegal.” Manchin and Sinema are both leaving the Senate and not seeking re-election.

The other Democrat approval votes, Tester and Brown, are some of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate as they face re-election this year.

The regulation being targeted is Federal Highway Administration Reg. 2125-AF99. This rule required transportation planners in US states to invest time and resources in calculating greenhouse gas emissions resulting from highway use. The rule then required state authorities to take these calculations and turn them into targets with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the country.

However, the rule gave states control over how to set the targets and did not impose penalties on states for not meeting their own goals.

Republicans, like Senator Shelley Moore Capito, felt that the Biden administration had abused its executive powers in creating this rule. Capito said this majority vote in the Senate sends “a clear message to the administration that we will continue to hold them accountable for executive overreach.”

The rule has been under fire recently. In March, a federal judge in Texas issued a ruling that the regulation exceeded the statutory authority of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Last week, a federal judge in Kentucky concurred with the ruling, agreeing that it was organizational overreach.

The FHWA has said that this rule was “essential” to meet a Biden administration emissions goal of achieving net-zero emissions in the American economy by 2050. However, the regulation did not require states to align with the Biden administration on this goal.

In a statement before the Senate vote, the White House defended the rule, insisting that if it passes through Congress President Joe Biden Would veto it.

“If enacted, S.J. Res. 61 would remove GHG emissions management from the suite of national highway performance measures – in other words, removing a common-sense, good-government tool for transparently managing transportation-related GHG emissions and informing transportation investment decisions,” the statement said.

Supporters of the rule say that on top of protecting the climate, the rule forces states to have transparency to the public about the emissions that are affecting their residents.

Beth Osborne, director for a left-leaning think tank called Transportation for America, decried the Senate vote on X.

Osborne wrote “If we can’t even track our emissions from transportation, we certainly can’t do anything about it. What are 53 members of the Senate so afraid that the public might learn?”

Since the resolution has passed the Senate, it will now go to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass given the Republican majority in that chamber.

However, since the White House has indicated Biden will veto it, it will likely go back to the Senate, where Republicans would need to find a way to secure a two-thirds approval to pass it.


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