The Failure of the Methane Rule Repeal Is a Canary in Donald Trump's Coal Mine

One of the most productive tools used by the Trump administration and this Congress has been the Congressional Review Act. This act gives Congress the right to declare rules promulgated by a lame duck administration to be void. Using this law, Congress has repealed thirteen rules, rules which would have placed a trillion or so dollars of drag on the economy. But on Wednesday something very significant happened:

The Senate on Wednesday narrowly blocked a resolution to repeal an Obama-era rule restricting methane emissions from drilling operations on public lands — with three Republicans joining every Democrat to preserve the rule.

The 51-to-49 vote on a procedural motion marked the first time since Trump’s election that Republicans have failed in their attempt to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama-era rules. Thirteen other resolutions, based on the 1996 law that allows Congress to overturn rules within 60 legislative workdays of their adoption, have succeeded.

The rule would force oil and gas companies to capture methane that had been previously burned off or “flared” at drilling sites. According to federal estimates, the rule would prevent roughly 180,000 tons a year of methane from escaping into the atmosphere and would boost federal revenue between $3 million and $13 million a year because firms only pay royalties on the oil and gas they capture and contain.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) unexpectedly voted no against a motion to proceed with consideration of the resolution, along with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). Two Democrats who had considered backing the rule’s elimination — Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — voted against the motion, and sent a letter asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make it less burdensome.

There is exactly one reason this rule failed. Donald Trump. Maybe two: John McCain is an a**hole.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Jason Chaffetz has asked the DOJ IG to investigate the circumstances of Comey’s firing (I don’t know how this works as Trump could have legally fired Comey just because he had constipation from an over-cooked, ketchup-drenched steak.) Other Republicans have started making noises about an “independent counsel.” (I don’t know how this works, either, because Trump would have to agree to it.) In short, fewer and fewer in the GOP are concerned about publicly challenging Trump and, as 2018 approaches, with a little bit of bad luck you could see Republicans start running against Trump out of self-preservation.

Trump has squandered whatever political capital he brought with him and any potential good will he may have been able to create by his own actions. I think he has one of the strongest cabinets I’ve seen in my lifetime and a lot of actions very favorable to conservatives are taking place but Trump, himself, is acting as a one-man sea anchor and wrecking ball for his own administration. His pettiness and casual dismissal of observable facts and documented truth prevents him from actually becoming a leader of the GOP and relegates him to the head of the executive branch. A branch which quite possibly will never be able to get Senate confirmation for key appointees.