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Senate backs Obama, rejects challenge to emissions rules

WASHINGTON - In a boost for the president on global warming, the Senate yesterday rejected a challenge to Obama administration rules aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other big polluters.

The defeated resolution would have denied the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to move ahead with the rules, crafted under the federal Clean Air Act. With President Barack Obama's broader clean energy legislation struggling to gain a foothold in the Senate, the vote took on greater significance as a signal of where lawmakers stand on dealing with climate change.

"If ever there was a vote to find out whose side you are on, this is it," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The vote was 53-47 to stop the Senate from moving forward on the Republican-led effort to restrain the EPA.

Republicans, and the six Democrats who voted with them to advance the resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of oil-rich Alaska, said Congress, not bureaucrats, should be in charge of writing climate change policy. They said the EPA rules would drive up energy costs and kill jobs.

But Democrats, referring frequently to the Gulf oil spill, said it made no sense to undermine efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.

The effort to block the rules "is an attempt to bury our heads in the sand and ignore reality," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

The EPA crafted standards on greenhouse gas emissions by big polluters after the Supreme Court ruled that those emissions could be considered a danger to human health and thus could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The rules are to go into effect in January.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called it a "blatant power grab by the administration and the EPA."

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