We've been hearing a lot from our leaders in Congress of late about the tough choices needed to get America's budget cut down to size. It's a compelling message and many House members have done a pretty convincing job of looking pained while proposing budget cuts in their Continuing Resolution (CR). But take a moment to look beyond the cuts and instead focus on the numerous policy changes proposed within the CR, and it quickly becomes clear that this is not fiscal prudence at work but extreme ideology.
During the 2010 election campaign, nearly every candidate across the country talked of the need to reduce the size of the budget deficit. Did we also hear of the need to block regulation of harmful air pollution? Or a call to allow our streams and rivers to be contaminated by sewage and fertilizers? Of course not. Who would vote for those ideas? But having ridden into power on promises of fiscal responsibility, the House leadership is spending its time and political capital mounting a full-scale assault on environmental protections that we haven't seen since the days of Speaker Gingrich.
The ugly truth is the CR has been used by anti-environmental House members to try to hamstring environmental laws and programs they have opposed for decades.
Their extreme agenda is easily exposed by policy riders that include: blocking EPA funding for regulating greenhouse gasses, effectively overruling the U.S. Supreme Court's 2007 ruling that greenhouse gasses must be regulated under the Clean Air Act; preventing EPA from restoring Clean Water Act protections to over 20 million acres of wetlands and streams; and attacking the Endangered Species Act so as to deprive California's Bay-Delta of a sustainable life-giving water supply.
In addition to these unnecessary attacks on environmental laws, this extreme agenda is made evident by the fact that they spend all their attention on reducing the deficit by cutting spending - while giving no attention to eliminating unnecessary tax subsidies for their special interest friends in oil and other polluting industries. Look no further than a House vote earlier this month that would have ended millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies for oil companies making record profits. Those who support the House's extreme anti-environmental agenda in almost every case also voted against ending these outrageous subsidies. How can one reconcile those priorities with a professed desire to do right by the American people?
If anti-environmental House members are successful, such major policy changes, disconnected from budget issues entirely, will have devastating and long-term effects on the health of America's people and our natural resources.
Money may be scarce in Washington, but apparently political opportunism is still abundant.