National Journal: EPA Votes Will Put Some Senate Democrats on the Spot
March 30, 2011
Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov
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EPA Votes Will Put Some Senate Democrats on the Spot
By Amy Harder
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | 10:45 p.m.
Numerous Democrats up for reelection in 2012 will cast at least one vote, and perhaps as many as four, on President Obama's climate-change rules as early as Wednesday that will come back to haunt them on the campaign trail-no matter how they vote.
Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, and a dozen or so other Democrats from energy-intensive states will face intense pressure from political opponents and interest groups on all sides.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Tuesday he will allow a vote on an amendment filed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would preempt EPA's climate-change rules.
The regulations officially went into effect in January, but they won't be rolled out for another couple of years. They will eventually regulate power plants, manufacturing facilities, and other major polluters.
Reid indicated that he would schedule votes at the same time on two Democratic amendments: one by Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana that limits the rules to just the major polluters and exempts agricultural producers; and one by Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, which delays implementation of the rules for two years. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also up for reelection in 2012, filed another amendment on Tuesday evening that combines the two other Democratic measures and goes further to exempt other parts of EPA's Clean Air Act authority over carbon emissions.
Reid's office was unable to confirm which amendments would get votes , but a spokesman reiterated what Reid said earlier on Tuesday: He plans to hold the votes. All of the amendments that get a vote will probably fail. The vote could be pushed to Thursday. But the yeas and nays will provide critical campaign fodder for interest groups and political opponents in the upcoming election cycle.
"It is a tough vote one way or the other for the Democrats, especially for the 15 who are really at risk this cycle," said GOP energy strategist Mike McKenna. "They can anger the base"-environmentalists and tort lawyers-"or anger everyone else."
If Democrats vote for any of the amendments, environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters will attack them for it. If they vote against any of the measures, the National Association of Manufacturers, the tea-party group Americans for Prosperity, and others will attack them. It's the political equivalent of walking the plank.
"I'm voting no on McConnell, but I don't know on the other two," Brown said on Monday evening. The senator from Ohio, a bellwether for Democrats up for reelection in energy-intensive states, still had not made up his mind on Tuesday evening, a spokeswoman said. As he has said for the past several months, Brown wants more from Obama on the issue.
"I don't think the White House has spoken strongly enough about how we're going to protect manufacturing jobs," said Brown, who sent a letter to the administration at the end of February urging compromise. He has talked with administration officials but has not received a formal reply in writing, Brown said. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
It's an all-out battle on the lobbying front this week. And the Democrats who will feel the most heat are those up for reelection in key presidential battleground states that Obama must win in 2012.
The most-targeted lawmakers include Casey of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Michigan's Stabenow and Ohio's Brown. The National Association of Manufacturing launched a campaign in all of those states plus Arkansas and Maine. The League of Conservation Voters, meanwhile, is targeting votes on the EPA rules by senators from the Midwestern battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.