End of Era: Sen. Inhofe’s leadership of the GOP on Environment & Public Works Committee expires — ‘GOP caucus limits its members to 6 years as chairman and 6 as ranking member’


Election’s impact on panel leadership raises key question — does Inhofe stay or go?

By Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter — Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

[Selected excerpts reprinted from E&E Greenwire – November 6, 2012 – subscription required]

The same two senators have headed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a decade, but depending on how the votes fall today, that could change.

The panel, which oversees U.S. EPA and writes some of the federal government’s most sweeping infrastructure bills, could get a new ranking Republican if Democrats retain control of the chamber. And if pre-election polling proves wrong and the GOP gains both the White House and the Senate tonight, the panel’s leaders may stay the same, but their roles will change substantially to respond to new political realities.

Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have been the top Republican and Democrat on the EPW Committee since 2003, with Inhofe handing off the gavel to Boxer in 2007 when Democrats gained control of the Senate.

The pair have a famously friendly personal relationship, and they have collaborated on highway funding and other issues. But it would be difficult to find two senators more diametrically opposed on issues of environmental regulation and global warming than Boxer, who cast herself as a crusader on climate policy even when she was running for re-election in 2010, and Inhofe, the chamber’s top climate skeptic, who earlier this year published a book titled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”

“James Inhofe singlehandedly reframed the entire political debate about the science of global warming and about the political cost of cap and trade,” said his former staffer Marc Morano, who is now publisher of the skeptic blog “Climate Depot.”

The Senate’s GOP caucus limits its members to six years as chairman and six as ranking member. So while Inhofe could serve another two years as chairman, if Republicans remain in the minority he will be pushed out and is expected to take the top Republican spot on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Under that scenario, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is in line to become top Republican on the panel, though Inhofe would remain a senior member and might even chair a subcommittee.

Different agendas, different state interests

Observers say that while there is no real difference between