Senate Republicans' efforts to repeal an Obama administration regulation on methane emissions failed to pass after three GOP lawmakers voted against the resolution. The surprise vote has been hailed as a victory by environmental groups.
On May 10, Senate leadership brought the repeal of a Bureau of Land Management rule on methane emissions under the Congressional Review Act up for a floor vote. The resolution failed to reach the 50-vote majority necessary to pass after Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine voted against it. Senate Democrats were unified against the resolution.
The Obama administration had finalized the BLM rule in November 2016. The regulation required oil and gas companies to limit methane emissions from their drilling sites on federal lands, citing that venting the gas wasted roughly $330 million per year. Oil industry groups had criticized the rule as costly for their industry while the Trump administration deemed it an unnecessary regulation.
Senate Republicans had successfully repealed several Obama administration rules under the Congressional Review Act. The chamber had until May 11 to pass any repeal measures under the process, meaning that the BLM rule is unlikely to be rescinded following the recent vote.
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In an official statement, McCain explained that he had voted against the resolution because it would have barred any regulations resembling the BLM rule from being implemented in the future.
"While I am concerned that the BLM rule may be onerous, passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government, under any administration, from issuing a rule that is 'similar'," McCain said, according to Reuters.
While both Collins and Graham had announced their opposition to the resolution before the floor vote, McCain's decision was considered unexpected. The Arizona senator's reversal has fueled speculation that he wanted to disrupt the Trump administration's efforts to roll back regulations in retaliation for the firing of FBI director James Comey, according to The Intercept.
On May 9, President Donald Trump dismissed Comey from the FBI. On May 10, the day of the Senate vote on the BLM rule, McCain blasted the White House explanation for the firing.
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"When you fire probably, arguably, the most respected person in America you better have a very good explanation and so far I haven't seen that," McCain told CNN.
During the floor vote, C-Span cameras recorded McCain having an argument with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas before casting his vote against the resolution.
Environmental groups have praised the Senate vote, deeming it a victory for activists.
"In recent months, thousands of Americans asked the Senate to stand up for clean air and against the oil lobby, and their efforts were successful today," said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts called the vote a victory against the oil and gas industry, PBS NewsHour reports.
"Today's vote is a win for American taxpayers, a win for public health and a win for our climate," Markey said.