Republicans say the rule is an overstep that will effectively cripple the coal industry and lead to widespread unemployment in fossil fuel states. They've vowed to stop the rule at all costs—whether through legislation, the courts, or both—and have made attacks on the rule a staple in hearings and speeches.
The opt-out approach written in the Whitfield bill—which passed the Energy and Commerce Committee in a 28-23 vote in April—has emerged as a major strategy for Republicans. The EPA has said it will impose a federal plan on any state that refuses to submit a compliance plan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put his weight behind the opt-out plan, sending a letter to all 50 governors urging them to opt out. Similar language is included in the Senate's Interior and EPA appropriations bill as well.
A Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee also will hold a hearing on another version of the opt-out bill from GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia on Tuesday.
The House Science Committee will also hold another hearing on the climate rule, hearing from the U.S. Energy Information Administration about the agency's recent report that found coal plan retirements could more than double under the EPA climate rule.
The House spending bill also takes broad swipes at the EPA's climate agenda beyond a rider blocking funds being spent on the power-plant rule. The $30.17 billion bill would cut the EPA's budget by 9 percent compared to fiscal 2015 and is well below President Obama's request. The bill also looks to cut from the agency's regulatory programs and keeps staffing levels at their lowest level since 1989 to "focus [EPA's] activities on core duties, rather than unnecessary regulatory expansion," according to the committee.
The bill also is chock full of riders to block the EPA's rule defining its Clean Water Act regulatory authority, an Endangered Species Act listing for the sage grouse, and a proposal to lower the ozone standard.
Democrats have said the overall funding levels are too low and that the riders are getting in the way of important environmental work, but were unsuccessful in removing them in a committee vote. A spokesman for the House Natural Resources Committee minority said that committee's members plan to offer a flood of amendments large and small on the bill.
"This bill drastically underfunds a lot of necessary programs and has too many unrelated bad policy riders at the same time," said Adam Sarvana, spokesman for Natural Resources ranking member Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat. "We have a lot of members who want to address its shortcomings. Our level of effort will match the need to improve the bill."
Whether Democrats are successful or not, the spending bill's future is clear; in a five-page letter to appropriators, the White House outlined a litany of "serious concerns" with the bill and is all but sure to issue a veto threat. Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said the bill would prevent the government from addressing climate change's economic and health impacts.
"These riders stand in the way of meeting these responsibilities—hamstringing permitting and future regulatory work, and creating significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance," Donovan wrote.