Capitol Hill Buzz: McConnell, McCarthy spar over coal plants

WASHINGTON (AP) — Maybe it's not Mayweather-Pacquaio, but Wednesday's verbal sparring between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and EPA administrator Gina McCarthy crackled with tension and defiance.

They'll eventually settle their differences over coal emissions in a courtroom, not a boxing ring, the two agreed in their rare face-to-face encounter before reporters and cameras.

McConnell says EPA's bid to limit carbon emissions would devastate Kentucky's struggling coal industry. McCarthy says the proposed rules are reasonable and necessary to combat climate change.

In March, McConnell took the unusual step of urging the nation's 50 governors to defy the Obama administration's power plant rules by refusing to submit compliance plans. He made another unusual move Wednesday, attending a routine Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing to confront McCarthy as she described her agency's budget needs.

The EPA's emission goals "would shutter coal plants in my state," McConnell said. "My constituents want their dignity restored, they want to work."

McCarthy said the EPA guidelines are reasonable and give states "tremendous flexibility."

McConnell pressed on. EPA needs congressional approval for its plan, he said in his Kentucky drawl, and "I can assure you that as long as I'm majority leader in the Senate, this body is not going to be signing off on any backdoor energy tax."

McCarthy answered in her strong Boston accent, in which carbon is "cah-bon."

"I believe that we are acting under the authority Congress gave us under the Clean Air Act," she said. EPA will produce a rule "that will withstand the test of time in the courts."

"Yeah, that's going to be the test," McConnell interjected. "You're going to have to prove it in court."

"As we most often do," McCarthy said cheerily.

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