WASHINGTON -- In a boost for President Barack Obama on global warming, the Senate on Thursday rejected a challenge to his administration's rules aimed at cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants and other big polluters.
The defeated resolution would have denied the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to move ahead with the rules, crafted under the federal Clean Air Act. With Obama's broader clean energy legislation struggling to gain a foothold in the Senate, the vote took on greater significance as a signal of where lawmakers stand on dealing with climate change.
"If ever there was a vote to find out whose side you are on, this is it," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
The vote was 53-47 to stop the Senate from moving forward on the Republican-led effort to restrain the EPA.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., predicted that the vote would "increase momentum to adopt comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year."
But Obama still needs 60 votes to advance his energy agenda, and Democrats don't have them yet. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the vote made clear that a majority in the Senate back either a delay or an outright ban on "the Obama EPA's job-killing, global warming agenda."
Republicans, and the six Democrats who voted with them to advance the resolution, said Congress, not bureaucrats, should be in charge of writing climate change policy. They said the EPA rules would drive up energy costs and kill jobs.
Democrats, referring frequently to the Gulf oil spill, said it made no sense to undermine efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.
The effort to block the rules "is an attempt to bury our heads in the sand and ignore reality," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Obama said the vote was another reminder of the need to pass legislation to reduce the country's reliance on oil.