On Wednesday night, with less than two hours before the country defaulted on its debts, Congress ended the standoff that shut the government down for 16 days, kept countless federal workers without work or pay, and left anyone watching disheartened by partisan antics. In the end, it amounted to Congress deciding to do its job and allowing others to do the same.
Source: New York Times. See the Senate and House vote breakdown
Did the extreme right in Congress get what they wanted out of this theater and was it worth holding workers’ and families’ budgets hostage and taking us to the brink of default? The House had prepared a wish list of deeply harmful energy, environment and public health policy riders that got sidelined by its attack on Obamacare.
On the environmental front, the litany of damaging riders would make the fossil fuel and electric generating industry salivate. The list included forcing the permitting of the Keystone pipeline, blocking greenhouse gas regulations to curb climate change, expanding drilling on federal lands, and Rep. McKinley’s (R-WV-01) favorite, his vendetta against federal protections for communities living near toxic coal ash dumps.
Irresponsible coal ash dumping practices have led to massive toxic spills, choked rivers, fish kills and contaminated water in more than 200 sites across the nation, but that’s not enough to deter Rep. McKinley from preventing the EPA from setting long-overdue standards. Instead of allowing a federal baseline of protection, he favors a patch-work of state-created standards without the requirement that they protect human health and the environment.
With less than 90 days to the next fiscal fight, the clock is ticking. Whether Congress has the will to avoid the next showdown without these harmful policy riders remains to be seen. Nonetheless, while the majority in the House may have come out of this empty-handed, you can count on their persistent and misguided appetite to prioritize toxic dumps over precautions for the public.