A third Republican Senator has now admitted that his real reason for wanting to obstruct the constitutional process for filling Supreme Court vacancies is rooted in large measure in his opposition to the Clean Power Plan.
Last week, I blogged about Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who both recently vented their disdain for the EPA, including its plans to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, as a reason for refusing to allow the constitutional process of filling Supreme Court vacancies to move forward.
Then E&E News reported (subscription required) that panelists at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) “vowed yesterday to place ‘another Justice [Antonin] Scalia on the Supreme Court’ to ensure that the Obama administration’s carbon rule for power plants would not survive legal challenges.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of the Republican Senators who has joined the GOP leadership in refusing to consider any nominee, was quoted saying, “The Senate would confirm a “Justice Scalia replacement that is like Justice Scalia in 2017.” Sen. Johnson may be echoing his Republican leaders, but based on the editorials coming out of Wisconsin, he’s way off-track. Just the headlines make it pretty clear:
- High court pick deserves a hearing and vote (Wisconsin State Journal, 02/28/16)
- Sen. Ron Johnson should break ranks on court nominee (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 02/25/16)
- GOP senators should step up and do their job (Leader-Telegram, 02/21/16)
And those ran even before last week’s CPAC meeting where, according to E&E News, Sen. Johnson went on to say “The Republican majority in the Senate will not allow the Supreme Court to flip. You can take that to the bank,” adding “that there was ‘no such thing as moderate judges,” and suggesting that any judges who find the Clean Power Plan to be legal are ‘super-legislators’ who are not following the Constitution.
It’s worth noting that climate change poses serious health, economic and environmental threats for Sen. Johnson’s constituents. NRDC has a great webpage on this. Here’s a quick sample:
- Asthma sickens an estimated 123,700 kids and 401,500 adults. Ground-level ozone, whose formation is aided by warmer temperatures, is a well-known trigger of asthma attacks. As Wisconsin’s temperature increases, so will the number of asthma attacks.
- The number of Wisconsin days over 90°F (32°C) per year may double in the south and triple in the north by 2050.
- Combined sewer overflows are a health risk for the cities of Milwaukee and Superior; sewage spills into Lake Michigan are expected to rise 50-120% by the end of the century.
- The state has been declared a disaster area 9 times since 2000, due to severe storms and flooding. Extreme rains where at least 2” fall are projected to increase in frequency 25% by 2050.
Clearly, Wisconsin editorial boards understand the importance of addressing climate change. “EPA Rules Are Reasonable,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial headline put it shortly after the Clean Power Plan was announced last summer. The Wisconsin State Journal and LaCrosse Tribune have editorialized in support of the Clean Power Plan. And here’s what the Capital Times wrote in support:
“Not only will Obama’s new rule help stem climate change, it will improve public health — especially among children and the elderly — by cutting pollutants that lead to soot and smog. The American Lung Association lauds the rule.”
Furthermore, most people in Wisconsin — 66% — support cleaning up carbon pollution from power plants, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change.
So to sum up, Sen. Johnson is following the extremists in the Republican Party by helping to obstruct a constitutional process, despite broad public opinion in his home state, in order to try to block the Clean Power Plan which will help address climate change, protect the health of children and the elderly, and which also has strong editorial and public support. Just who is Sen. Johnson representing in this?
Yep, you read that right. This isn’t about the current Congress doing its job, or even about Congress letting the current President do his job. In the view of Sen. Johnson and his obstructionist allies, it’s about ignoring a constitutional process in the hopes of blocking health and environmental standards that they don’t like.
On Thursday, during a radio interview, Sen. Johnson went even farther to outright admit that he opposes considering a new Supreme Court justice nominated under President Obama because of political reasons:
“Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing — if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it…. Let’s face it, I don’t think anybody’s under any illusion — President Obama’s nominee would flip the court from a 5-4 conservative to a 5-4 liberal controlled court.”
Take a moment to tell your Senators today that they should do their jobs by committing to a hearing and a vote for whomever the President nominates.
Pete Altman is the Climate & Clean Air Campaign Director of the NRDC Action Fund.