Boehner: Obama Can’t Take Executive Action on Climate Change

By Matt Cover | February 14, 2013 | 12:57 PM EST

House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo)

( – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) challenged President Barack Obama’s assertions about climate change policy on Thursday, saying there was not anything the president could do if Congress refuses to pass the climate bill Obama called for in his State of the Union speech.

“I don’t know what actions the president thinks he can take,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference Thursday. “I don’t think he has the ability to impose a national energy tax on Americans without the authority of Congress.”

“He may attempt to do this, but I’m not sure how much he can really do,” said Boehner.

In his speech on Tuesday, Obama called for legislation addressing climate change (global warming) and threatened to use his executive authority if Congress does not act.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” Obama said. “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

As Boehner pointed out, it is difficult to see what actions Obama can take in those areas because each would require congressional funding, something that would have to pass through the GOP-controlled House and the Senate where Democrats have been reluctant to take up controversial pieces of Obama’s agenda because the Democrat Party suffered losses in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Even the most direct route – EPA regulations on carbon dioxide – would have to face congressional scrutiny. While the EPA is allowed to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, any cap-and-trade or other national regulatory scheme it put in place would still depend on new federal funds, which would have to be approved by Congress.

In his opening remarks at the press conference, Boehner challenged Senate Democrats to take up their president’s agenda, saying that if  Obama wanted action, Democrats should lead the way.

“The president likes to attack Congress but if he’s serious about enacting his agenda, I think it must start with the part of this Congress that his party controls – the United States Senate,” Boehner said.

“What can he get passed in the United States Senate? The president wants to impose a national cap-and-trade energy tax. I would hope that Senate Democrats would take it up.”