Sen. Richard "Dick" Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader in the Senate, said Democrats would draw the line at cutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when it came to cutting the federal government’s budget. Durbin made his comments while speaking on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Sunday, when much of the program focused on a congressional budget debate set for this week on Capitol Hill.
Host David Gregory pressed Durbin on where he and his fellow Democrats in the Senate would stand when it comes to approving budget reductions from the House of Representatives. Durbin said there would be little support for any proposals to defund the EPA or strip the agency from regulating carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. “I can tell you there are some [proposals] that are totally unacceptable,” Durbin said. “The idea that we are going to close down the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to keep our air clean and our water pure. I mean that sort of thing is irresponsible.”
Durbin’s comments come as many in Washington await a deal in the House of Representatives where Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) are tasked with uniting the Tea Party faction with the rest of the GOP on a budget proposal. Once Republicans and members of the Tea Party get on the same page, members of Congress will have to agree on significant cuts or face the possibility of a government shutdown. The current deadline for hammering out a deal is April 8.
Democrats have a majority in the Senate, and the upper chamber seems unlikely to agree with any proposal from the lower chamber that strips the EPA of power. Over the last several months, the Senate stopped efforts to defund or roll back the power of the agency. The most recent attempt came last week when Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) included restrictions on the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic carbon emissions from power plants in a bill aimed at increasing fossil fuel production in the United States.
But the budget debate will largely be a battle in the House of Representatives, and there’s a lot that could end up on the chopping block. It will be interesting to see if pressure from the upper chamber will influence the House vote.