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Robert F. Bukaty/AP

The GOP-controlled Senate's surprise failure to pass a rule repealing an Obama-era methane rule comes down to one simple thing: time.

"I think the worst influential force was time," said one well-connected oil-industry lobbyist who backed passage of the repeal.

Why it matters: Congress can only repeal recently completed regulations within a finite window, and that window was closing Wednesday.

Just days after President Trump was inaugurated, the GOP-controlled Congress agreed on several Obama-era rules it would seek to repeal using a law that allows it to overturn recently completed regulations. The methane rule was the very last up to bat, and the Senate didn't take it up until the last-minute.

The delay allowed groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and Taxpayers for Common Sense to keep pressuring moderate members from both parties on the issue from different angles: climate change and the environment (methane is a potent greenhouse gas) and taxpayer money (the rule requires companies to capture instead of inadvertently emit methane, the primary component of gas, from wells on federal lands).

Time allowed a group of Republican senators from states with big ethanol interests to conjure up a demand that they would only vote yes if they got a policy backing ethanol in return. This muddied the waters in the whip count, according to people familiar with the effort.

Time allowed for coincidental occurrences, including:

  • Some stakeholders speculated whether Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), voted against the measure because he was upset about a separate nominee process. McCain said in a statement he voted against it because he thinks the government should regulate methane emissions.
  • Others speculated whether there was any collateral impact from the firing of FBI director James Comey. "It's not that I didn't think it last night," said Ryan Alexander, president of the taxpayers group. "I don't think that was the motivation for the three Republicans who voted with us."

Go deeper

7 mins ago - World

Abbas announces first Palestinian elections in 15 years

Abbas is 85 and in the 15th year of a 4-year term. Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree on Friday announcing the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: This is the first time in 15 years that such a decree has been published. The last presidential elections took place in 2005, with Abbas winning, and the last parliamentary elections took place in 2006, with Hamas winning.

Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.