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Budget Hijack Is Avant-Garde Politics

A thousand political fires are burning in Washington, D.C., as members of the House of Representatives hijack the budgeting process. They aim to torch critical environmental safeguards—from endangered species protections to standards that keep our air and water clean.

Their strategy? Since Congress has to pass a spending bill that funds government agencies—the EPA, Forest Service and others—anti-environmental representatives think they can slip bitter pills into the bill and make the country swallow.

I call it avant-garde governing. First, the architects of this all-out assault on environmental protection are pushing the boundaries of our democracy. Second, they are in a different place entirely from the majority of Americans.

Let's take a look at air pollution—an issue near and dear to my heart—to see just how out of touch they are. A recent poll conducted for the American Lung Association found that a bipartisan 66 percent majority of likely voters in 2012 believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set air pollution standards.

Congress, are you out there? Do you understand those findings? The majority of people who vote you into office don't trust you to deal with clean air. They say that's the job of the EPA.

That's why I almost laughed aloud when I read the following statement (Politico Pro) from Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), chairman of the congressional subpanel that is desperately trying to defund the EPA's important clean air work, not to mention a slew of other things:

I'll tell you what it's a message of, when you see the number of amendments addressing the EPA with funding limitation amendments, it tells you how out of touch the EPA is with the rest of the country and with reality.

Wow! Rep. Simpson really has his wires crossed. Simpson is saying that the large number of amendments to defund clean air work—work that would, for example, clean up deadly air pollution from cement plants, power plants and other dirty industries—are the result of a public that thinks the EPA is out of touch with their desires.

In real reality—not Simpson's Inside-the-Beltway universe—public opinion polling says the opposite. Rep. Simpson and his allies aren't actually doing the bidding of their constituents, or the will of the people writ large. They're acting on behalf of the dirty industries that don't want to clean up their pollution.

At no point was the broad support for clean air protections more apparent to me than during the 50 States United for Healthy Air project, which brought community members from every state to Washington, D.C. to defend our right to breathe clean air. Revisit these inspiring stories or check them out for the first time here.

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