Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who opposed the resolution, agreed that Congress should not cede its authority to the executive branch but expressed concern the measure would reverse progress made in such areas as vehicle emissions. He said he supported a bill that would suspend EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for two years.
Murkowski, too, said Congress should be working harder to come up with an energy bill. The issue was whether a consensus was possible this year.
"Here's the real rub," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has worked with Democrats on possible energy legislation. "If we stop them (the rules), are we going to do anything?"
"This is going to be the great hypocrisy test," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., cosponsor of a major clean energy proposal. He asked whether those demanding that Congress act first would actually vote for change.
There were other disputes about the consequences of the Murkowski resolution. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House said the resolution would force the EPA to rescind the standards for emissions from future-model cars and light trucks it came up with earlier this year with the Transportation Department. The result, she said, would be a need for the country to consume an extra 455 million barrels of oil.
Murkowski and others countered that Transportation has long been able to set fuel efficiency standards without the help of the EPA.
Jackson also denied the argument of critics that the EPA rules would impose devastating costs on small businesses and farmers, resulting in major job losses. The EPA added a provision that exempts small sources of pollution from the regulations for six years.