Democrats aren't worried about a GOP congressman's bill to abolish the EPA

Reports of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) impending death may have been greatly exaggerated.

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced a bill Friday (H.R.861) to abolish the EPA, but Democratic congressional staff told Business Insider that they don’t expect the bill to go anywhere.

Gaetz, along with cosponsors Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Steven Palazzo of Mississippi, and Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, is associated with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

In an interview with the Northwest Florida Daily News, Gaetz said the EPA’s rules and regulations designed to protect the environment actually hurt people and that the agency has “violated the sovereignty of the states.”

For evidence, he pointed to coastal wetland protection rules requiring farmers to get permits before watering their cows from ponds on their land. He argued that states and local governments are better positioned to protect “their environmental assets.”

But congressional staffers told Business Insider that Gaetz, a freshman congressman, likely lacks the political oomph to push through such a drastic change to the federal bureaucracy.

First, abolishing the EPA would involve repealing a number of laws entrusting the agency with a number of specific environmental responsibilities. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Republican Party seems to have consolidated behind the Trump administration’s still-fuzzy, though apparently less-extreme vision for the agency — one that still represents a significant departure from the status quo under Trump’s predecessors.

The president’s exact plans for the agency remain unclear, even to people working there now and scientists who rely on the EPA for funding.

However, the available evidence suggests that people in Trump’s orbit want to radically downsize the agency while keeping it running. And the White House has already taken steps designed to limit its ability to regulate industry.

There’s no evidence though to suggest that Trump’s team or Republican leadership in Congress will take steps to dismantle it entirely. If they did intend to do so, it seems unlikely that they’d still be working to get aspiring EPA administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed.

That said, Democrats aren’t ignoring Gaetz’s bill entirely.

“It shows how brazen Republicans are in promoting their dirty air and water and anti-science agenda,” a House Democratic leadership aide told Business Insider.

The idea of abolishing or reducing the power of the EPA isn’t entirely new to Republican Party politics — even though it would have been unimaginable under Republican presidents from Richard Nixon, who oversaw the agency’s founding, to George W. Bush, whose EPA head has opposed Trump’s EPA administrator pick as “disdainful” of the agency’s mission.

In 2011, a Senate bill to roll the EPA into the Department of Energy attracted the 17 cosponsors, including party leaders like John McCain and Orrin Hatch. However, it failed to pass out of the Democrat-controlled Senate.

That same year, then-presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich floated the idea of abolishing the agency during a speech in Iowa.

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