Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The EPA's plan to weaken vehicle standards underscores a broader problem facing Democrats and their environmental allies: They have little leverage against Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the man now leading the agency, compared to his predecessor.

Between the lines: Scott Pruitt attracted massive press attention, but that was largely thanks to his big ethical problems and the bizarre trappings of the scandals. Now, Wheeler is advancing a very similar agenda — but without the heavy ethical baggage.

In addition, his experience and knowledge of the Clean Air Act could make his efforts less vulnerable to successful court challenges.

Driving the news: EPA and the Transportation Department issued draft rules today that would dismantle Obama-era vehicle mileage and carbon emissions regulations.

  • One option under consideration is to freeze the standards at 2020 levels while revoking California's waiver to set tougher emissions rules that roughly a dozen other states follow.

Why it matters: It shows the challenge of wringing carbon emissions out of transportation, which has recently supplanted electricity generation as the largest source of U.S. CO2 output.

What they're saying: An exchange at a Senate hearing Wednesday at the Environment and Public Works Committee captured this dynamic nicely. Here's what Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told Wheeler:

"As you know I viewed your predecessor’s tenure as one characterized by tawdry personal behavior in office, a desire to do damage to the agency that he led, a flagrant absence of transactional integrity, and horrible environmental policies. ... I see you as a remedy to three of those four."

What's next: The Trump administration proposal upends Obama-era standards for cars and light trucks that extend through 2025.

  • One key option would freeze the combined standards at 2020 levels of roughly 35 miles per gallon through 2026.
  • Wheeler told lawmakers yesterday that the agency will take comment on a range of options from that "flatline" approach to maintaining the Obama standards (which amount to around 50 miles per gallon in 2025).

Go deeper: Read the EPA's new draft fuel economy rules.

Go deeper

Amy Coney Barrett: "Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me"

Trump introduces Amy Coney Barrett as nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Olivier Douleiry/Getty Images

In speaking after President Trump announced her as the Supreme Court nominee to replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett said on Saturday she will be "mindful" of those who came before her on the court if confirmed.

What she's saying: Barrett touched on Ginsburg's legacy, as well as her own judicial philosophy and family values. "I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution," she said. "I'm truly humbled at the prospect of serving on the  Supreme Court."

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 32,683,686 — Total deaths: 990,977 — Total recoveries: 22,535,887Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 7,072,897 — Total deaths: 204,446 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,488,275Map.
  3. States: New York daily cases top 1,000 for first time since June — U.S. reports over 55,000 new coronavirus cases.
  4. Health: The long-term pain of the mental health pandemicFewer than 10% of Americans have coronavirus antibodies.
  5. Business: Millions start new businesses in time of coronavirus.
  6. Education: Summer college enrollment offers a glimpse of COVID-19's effect.

What they're saying: Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sept. 26. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic and Republican lawmakers along with other leading political figures reacted to President Trump's Saturday afternoon nomination of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

What they're saying: "President Trump could not have made a better decision," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States."