The Obama administration has been explicit about how its decision to have the Environmental Protection Agency regulate carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant was meant as a threat to Congress.
Its message was clear: Pass job-killing cap-and-trade legislation or accept more onerous (and more job-killing!) "command and control" regulation of the economy by bureaucrats at the EPA.
Remarkably, congressional Democratic supporters of cap and trade have played along with the administration's attempt to greenmail Congress and the American people. They've claimed that Congress is powerless to prevent EPA regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.
On "Fox News Sunday" this past weekend, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-author of the cap-and-trade bill in the House of Representatives, said, "It's no longer a question . . . of legislation or no legislation. It is now a question of legislation or regulation" by the EPA.
And last August, Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., wrote in a West Virginia newspaper, "It takes more than a simple majority vote of Congress to amend the Clean Air Act."
But it turns out that Congress isn't as powerless to change how the EPA regulates under the Clean Air Act as Markey and Mollohan claim. Change the question from human emissions to cow emissions and--presto!--Congress suddenly isn't so impotent.
That's what happened when Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., attached an amendment to an EPA appropriations bill last summer. The Tiahrt amendment stated:
". . . None of the funds made available in this Act or any other Act may be used to promulgate or implement any regulation requiring the issuance of permits under Title V of the Clean Air Act . . . for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production."
In other words, it prohibited the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate the "dangerous" gases routinely emitted from cows.
The amendment was so uncontroversial it was added to the appropriations bill by a voice vote. And when the appropriations bill was voted on, Markey and Mollohan voted "Aye."
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the other co-author of the House cap-and-trade bill, also voted for wresting cow emissions from the EPA's bureaucratic grasp. As did the bill's co-authors in the Senate, John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Clearly, the American people's choice--job-killing cap-and-trade legislation or more job-killing EPA regulation--is not as binary as Markey would have us believe.
And clearly, when Mollohan said that it takes "more than a simple majority vote" to restrict the EPA's regulation under the Clean Air Act, he either had not read the appropriations bill for which he voted, or he voted for something he did not find legally permissible.
As Mollohan and Markey have shown with their own recorded support, it is possible to restrict the EPA's power with respect to the Clean Air Act.
Congress can and should pass something similar to Rep. Marsha Blackburn's, R-Tenn., bill, which would prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. So far, Waxman has held Blackburn's bill hostage in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But 121 members of the House have signed a petition demanding that it be allowed a vote.
This attempt by the Obama administration and cap-and-trade supporters to achieve through blackmail what they can't achieve through the democratic process must not be allowed to stand.
When members of Congress say that they either have to pass a cap-and-trade bill or accept a bureaucratic nightmare from the EPA as they try to stop global warming, remember that their argument rests on nothing but hot air.
If they can do it for cows, they can do it for their fellow Americans.
Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.