8 House Democrats Join With GOP To Fight California’s Electric Vehicle Mandate
Eight House Democrats broke ranks on Thursday to vote with Republicans to pass a bill that opposes California’s environmental regulations mandating the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs).
The Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act received approval from the House with a vote of 222–190, with 214 Republicans and eight Democrats supporting it.
This legislation was initially introduced by a group of Republican lawmakers led by Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.) in March. It has garnered support from the energy industry, with proponents arguing that EV mandates could negatively impact the economy and infringe on consumer choice.
“The House has passed my legislation to stop California’s ban on gas-powered cars,” Mr. Joyce said on X.
“Today’s vote is a victory for American consumers and personal freedom.”
Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.) arrives at a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Sept. 13, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
While the legislation in question does not expressly reference California, according to the Clean Air Act, the Democrat-led state retains the ability to establish more stringent emissions rules than those set by the federal government, provided they receive approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In March 2022, the EPA reinstated California’s ability to enforce its emission standards and EV sales mandate under the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, it granted other states the option to adopt California’s regulations.
If enacted, the Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act would prevent the EPA from providing such approvals to states that try to ban or restrict internal combustion engine vehicles.
Mr. Joyce said his bill was prompted by a California air-quality board’s decision to effectively ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035. His bill would block any attempt to ban the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Since many states follow California’s lead on air pollution rules, the state’s action could force automakers to stop production and sale of gas-powered vehicles, Mr. Joyce said.
“California regulators shouldn’t have the power to determine what vehicles are sold to families in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Joyce told Fox Business on Thursday.
Mr. Joyce has said that EVs can’t “meet the demands” of his constituents. He said it was “ultimately unrealistic” for many of them to drive an EV in the mountainous regions of his constituency, in both “harsh winters” and “intense heat.”
He told Fox News earlier this week that his bill allows people to have the option to purchase an EV—not be mandated to purchase one.
“For those who would like an electric vehicle, they should have the option of buying one,” he said.
“But it doesn’t help my constituents—it doesn’t help in any district to require an individual to buy an EV regardless of what they want and regardless of the demands of the market.”
The legislation may not pass the Democrat-led Senate. In a statement on Sept. 12, the White House made its opposition to the bill known.
“The Administration strongly opposes passage of H.R. 1435,” the statement reads (pdf). The White House said that Congress acted decades ago to protect California’s authority to address its air quality challenges and to allow other states to follow in its footsteps.
The statement said the bill would “restrict the ability of California and its citizens to address its severe air pollution challenges.”
The bill’s approval in the House comes as American auto workers drift closer to a potential strike. EVs have become a cause for concern, with the United Auto Workers union alleging that the Big Three automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis—are leveraging the shift to EVs to diminish wages.
Former President Donald Trump has capitalized on these concerns, strongly criticizing the Biden administration’s EV plan in his efforts to gain support from voters in the pivotal state of Michigan, where the automotive sector holds considerable economic importance.
On Thursday night, UAW chief Shawn Fain said the union will strike “all three” automakers “for the first time in our history” from 3 a.m. if no deal is struck by midnight on Thursday, when the union’s current contract is set to expire. Ford CEO Jim Farley said on Thursday that the union’s wage increase demands could bankrupt the company.
The Democrats who voted alongside Republicans to pass the bill are Reps. Yadira Caraveo of New Mexico, Jim Costa of California, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Donald Davis of North Carolina, Jared Golden of Maine, Brian Higgins of New York, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, and Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico.
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