The headline in yesterday’s Washington Examiner reads: “Greens: GOP support for climate rules rising.” If you are asking yourself right now what that means, here’s the story.…
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attack on the Clean Power Plan this week was supposed to demonstrate to the world the strong bipartisan opposition to the United States’ first ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plans. His party has a majority in the Senate, but the measure passed by a not very strong majority of 52 votes—nowhere near the 67 votes needed to make it veto proof.
Even more problematic for McConnell and his polluter allies, though, is that the vote ended up showing that the Clean Power Plan actually has bipartisan support, and enough of it to ensure that it will keep moving forward.
What happened when the time came to vote? As the New York Times reported:
“Three moderate Republicans, two up for re-election next year, Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, as well as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, broke from their party to vote against the resolutions and back the environmental regulations.”
What explains the loss of Republican momentum in the attacks on the EPA? E&E News explained the actions of Senators Ayotte and Collins this way:
“Of the three Republicans who voted to keep the plan in place, Ayotte and Kirk are part of a recently formed Republican working group on environment and energy issues.
“Ayotte, who is in a tough re-election battle with New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, last month publicly announced that she was in favor of the Clean Power Plan. Kirk, though, was the target of an aggressive campaign by environmentalists after reports surfaced that he was planning to vote in favor of the resolutions. He is also vulnerable next year.
“After the vote, Collins touted Maine’s actions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. She said she was concerned that global warming was adding to pollution-linked asthma issues and a higher incidence of lime disease as ticks’ habitats shift to the north.”
The backstory on Senator Kirk is even more interesting. According to the National Journal, “Kirk is one of many moderate Republicans facing a tough reelection (National Journal’s Charlie Cook has rated the race a tossup).” And as Energy Guardian explained:
“Kirk, who faces a tough re-election challenge from Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, took fire from environmentalists in June for a vote against the power plant carbon limits in an EPA and Interior appropriations bill. Groups had charged Kirk with casting the “deciding vote” for language that would have blocked funding for the rules.”
(NRDC, by the way, was one of those groups that held Senator Kirk accountable last summer.)
An aide for Senator Kirk elaborated to Politico:
“‘Senator Kirk today voted to improve air quality and reduce rising childhood asthma rates,’ a Kirk spokeswoman said in a statement explaining the senator’s vote. ‘With our diverse energy portfolio, Illinois is already leading the way in energy efficiency and is well positioned to balance the needs of the environment and the economy.'”
So, the next time you hear someone saying there is bipartisan sentiment in the U.S. Senate to roll back the EPA Clean Power Plan, please set that person straight. What’s growing is the bipartisan support for the Clean Power Plan. And that’s not speculation or any political tea-leaf reading.
The votes prove it.
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