Politico Pro: Reid, greens spar behind the scenes
May 19, 2011
Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov
Reid, greens spar behind the scenes
By Darren Samuelsohn
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and environmental groups are at odds over how far greens should go in spanking Democrats who don't vote their way on key issues like the EPA's climate change powers and oil industry tax breaks.
Reid and several of his top lieutenants emerged from a meeting Wednesday night with top green group CEOs pledging to protect the Clean Air Act against further assaults from Republicans and even some moderate Democrats.
But behind the scenes, the majority leader and the environmentalists don't all see eye to eye on whether in-cycle Democrats deserve to be the target of ad campaigns when they also help make up Reid's razor-thin majority.
Driving the debate is a League of Women Voters commercial that slammed Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) after she voted last month to freeze the EPA's rules for two years.
Sierra Club CEO Michael Brune dragged the issue into the public spotlight Wednesday when he posted on Twitter the premise of the green group's closed-door meeting with the Democratic leaders.
"What do u think about holding D's accountable for votes to gut Cl Air Act/keep oil subsidies?" he tweeted, referring to the EPA votes last month and Tuesday's roll call on legislation to repeal $21 billion in oil industry tax breaks.
Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted with Republicans to keep the industry incentives in place.
In a conference call with Nevada reporters, Reid sounded none too happy about Brune's posting.
"I think whoever this is in the Sierra Club had better get his facts right," the majority leader said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "I don't buy the illogic of the tweet."
Brune declined comment as he left the majority leader's office, while Reid spokesman Jon Summers insisted that the talks were typical fare with a key constituent group.
"Standard meeting," he said. "They discussed priorities and talked about how best to work together to protect public health and the environment from bad legislation like the bill Republicans tried to pass today."
Majority Whip Dick Durbin was equally tight-lipped, telling reporters only that the meeting centered around this year's Clean Air Act debates.
"I think we all agreed in the room what a high priority it is for public health," Durbin said. "We think we've achieved quite a bit so far this year but we know there'll be further attacks from the House Republicans."
Asked if the environmental group's attack ads had come up during the talks, Durbin replied, "We had a wide range of discussions. That's all I have."
Also spotted entering the meeting: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Patty Murray, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner, Center for American Progress President John Podesta, Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt and National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger.
Several of the environmentalists opted to stay silent about their sit down with Reid and the Senate Democrats. "Good meeting," Lehner replied via email before declining to answer any questions.