House Democrats late Monday afternoon were staging a mini-filibuster against a Republican bill that they said would significantly undermine U.S. environmental protection laws. A handful of amendments were debated before Democratic leaders and senior committee members each took five minutes to talk in opposition to the bill.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the message of the 2010 elections was to worry about jobs and the deficit, not to lower environmental standards.
"I got no message from any voter than I ought to come to Congress and undermine the air, water, land that they survive on, recreate on and rely on for the quality of their lives," Hoyer said. "Not one constituent, whether they voted for me or against me, said 'undermine the protections of our land and water and air.' Not one."
Others said the bill, which cuts Interior Department, EPA and other spending by an overall 7 percent, said the bill reveals Republicans to be anti-environment.
"This is the most anti-environmental House in history," said House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). "The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants and oil refineries and factories."
"This bill, H.R. 2584, is a terrible bill," said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). "It's a terrible bill for our country and it represents an assault on our environment."
Republicans argued Monday that everything needs to be cut, and that even the 18 percent cut to the EPA is justified in light of the huge spending increases it received in 2009. They also argued that EPA overreach is killing jobs and creating uncertainty among companies.
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) argued that the EPA even regulates when companies can say they are selling a "green" product.
"When I was growing up, green was a color," he said, holding up a green folder. "This folder was green. Not anymore. If I can't demonstrate that this folder has something to do with livability and sustainability, I am misleading the people that are watching this program."
LaTourette mocked this level of regulation further by wondering how the EPA might try to regulate the product named Miracle-Gro.
"How is the EPA going to be able to certify, when I put that Miracle-Gro on that tomato plant, that a miracle has occurred?" he asked. "You're going to put a tremendous burden on the Vatican. All these little old ladies are going to be at the airport, flying over to Rome to talk to the College of Cardinals and say, 'did a miracle occur?' "