Senate tailpipe rule vote fails despite Dem defections

By Manuel Quiñones, Emma Dumain | 04/18/2024 04:20 PM EDT

Congress is far from done with the issue, and both chambers are eyeing additional votes.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) both broke with their party Thursday to vote against EPA's tailpipe rule for cars and smaller trucks. Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Critics of EPA’s new emissions rule for cars and small trucks suffered a defeat in the Senate on Thursday afternoon.

The chamber rejected Finance ranking member Mike Crapo’s legislation, S. 4072, against the new tailpipe standards by a vote of 52-46. Leaders promised Crapo a roll call last month as part of a deal to prevent a government shutdown.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting for the legislation, but they weren’t enough to overcome the 60-vote threshold. Tester and Brown are in tough reelection campaigns.


“This rule should have never happened,” said Manchin, accusing Democrats and the administration of wanting to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles beyond what the Inflation Reduction Act envisioned and beyond what the grid can tolerate.

EPA has estimated that almost 70 percent of new cars sold by 2032 will be electric under the rule finalized earlier this year.

Energy and Natural Resources ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said, “The inconvenient truth is the American people do no want to buy EVs.”

He added, “The actions by the Democrats and the EPA aren’t driven by fact. They are driven by that party’s blind faith in their climate religion.”

The White House threatened to veto the bill last week, saying it would “artificially constrain consumer vehicle choice, weaken U.S. energy security, perpetuate health inequities among overburdened populations, and stymie progress on national climate goals.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called the rule “absolutely critical” to addressing climate change. “We’re moving toward an all-electric future,” said Markey.

And Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) pointed to his state’s own rules to control transportation emissions and encourage the growth of EVs.

“Not only can it happen. It is happening,” he said of the transition to electric, and called EPA’s rulemaking “ambitious but also achievable”

Environmental advocates were keeping a particularly close eye on Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who had expressed concerns about the rule. He ended up opposing the bill.

The House and Senate will likely hold more votes against EPA tailpipe standards for cars and trucks, with opponents pushing resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.

The law allows lawmakers to undo administration roles by simple majority votes. Last week, for example, a bipartisan coalition voted to undo a Federal Highway Administration climate rule. The president is poised to veto the resolution.