2 Dem Senators Cave On Oil Subsidies

Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Begich (D-AL) are defending subsidies for big oil companies.

 

Why didn't anyone tell me that Sen. Murkowski was a climate champion?

Tuesday's Republican primary in Alaska may still be undecided, (currently incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski trails her tea-party challenger Joe Miller by approximately 2,000 votes) but that hasn't stopped anti-environment pundits from speculating that if Murkowski loses, it will be because of her support for climate legislation. Now I follow the climate debate pretty closely, (even if it wasn't my job, as a political junkie I'd follow it nonetheless) and I just don't remember Murkowski being a climate champion. That isn't to say she's another James Inhofe in the Senate, but being open to negotiations on climate legislation does not make her the zealous supporter her opponent portrays her to be.

Fact is that Lisa Murkowski is far from an environmental champ. The League of Conservative Voters (LCV) gives her an 18% career rating, meaning that she votes the right way on less than one out of five environmental issues. And, more recently, she gave us environmentalists heartburn by leading an assault on the Clean Air Act - only one of the most successful environmental laws of all time.

Murkowski's effort to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific finding that global warming threatens our health and welfare was bad, but at least she was polite enough to claim her attack "has nothing to do with the science of global warming." That's a far cry from her opponent, Joe Miller, whose campaign website says that "The science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive." The last thing that Alaska needs is a climate denier representing it in the Senate. Even the late Ted Stevens, never an environmental champ himself, recognized that "Alaska is harder hit by global climate change than any place in the world."

To say this primary suggests that climate change is a political non-starter in Alaska shows a selective memory. Just two short years ago, Alaska elected a real climate champ, Mark Begich, to the Senate. Climate change was a top issue during Begich's campaign, when he called for an 80% reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 and adaption strategies to help Alaska deal with the effect of climate change. Since coming to the Senate, he has continued to work to advance clean energy and climate solutions, earning an 82% rating from LCV in his first year. Last August, he introduced a package of seven bills aimed to help Alaska prepare for the changes and challenges created by a warming planet. And, in June, he voted against Murkowski's Clean Air Act attack.

This is just another case of anti-environment pundits not letting the facts get in the way of propagating their backward agenda. I'm interested to see how they'll change their tune if the absentee ballots put Murkowski in the lead. If she wins in the end, I wonder if they'll claim her victory was due to her steadfast support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Or maybe it'll be her support for offshore drilling?

The only thing I know is if she wins, they won't be crediting her position on climate.

Murkowski’s Assault on the Clean Air Act Fails

The BP spill has stolen most of the environmental limelight this month, but the green movement went into hyperdrive this week to defend the Clean Air Act – and succeeded. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s disapproval resolution, written by big oil lobbyists and nicknamed “the Dirty Air Act,” would have prevented the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act. It failed today on a vote of 47-53.

Additional good news: The fact that coal state senators like Bob Casey, Robert Byrd, and Debbie Stabenow and oil state Senators like Mark Begich and Bill Nelson voted against this resolution bodes well for the prospects of future climate and energy legislation.

The vote was pretty poorly timed for Murkowski, coming at a time when most Americans want BP to pay more for its criminal negligence, not less. I’ve received at least 8 e-mails in the last 2 days from environmental groups like the Sierra Club, VoteVets, and Repower America with subjects like “Stop the Big Oil Bailout,” “One Day Left to Stop Big Oil,” “Protect the Clean Air Act,” and “Murkowski’s Last Stand.”

The eventual climate bill considered by the Senate will likely contain language similar to the Murkowski resolution, but at least it will be tied to new regulations. To ban the EPA from addressing climate change without tying it to such legislation first would cause irreparable harm to the planet. This is so painfully obvious that Murkowski couldn’t even recruit her fellow Alaska Senator to join her. "It is time for Congress to face up to this serious issue, not stick our heads in the sand and deny the irrefutable science," said Mark Begich (D-AK). EPA administrator Lisa Jackson agreed, writing for the Huffington Post earlier this week:

The fact that a single accident at a single offshore oil well can cause billions of dollars in damage, result in thousands of people losing their jobs and livelihoods and threaten an entire region highlights how important it is that we keep moving America forward, towards energy independence. We can't afford to go back.

That is why it is surprising to learn that on June 10, the Senate will vote on legislation that would take us back to the same old failed policies and increase America's oil dependence by billions of barrels. Senator Lisa Murkowski, with strong support from big oil companies and their lobbyists, has proposed a resolution that would drastically weaken our nation's historic effort to increase fuel savings, save consumers money and cut oil consumption from American cars and trucks.

Senator Murkowski's resolution would take away EPA's ability to protect the health and welfare of Americans from greenhouse gas pollution. The resolution would ignore and override scientific findings and allow big oil companies, big refineries and others to continue to pollute without any oversight or consequence. It would also gut EPA's authority in the clean cars program, a program that would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut down on air pollution.

No Republican opposed the resolution – even so-called “moderates” like Collins, Snowe, and Brown sided against the Clean Air Act. Six Democrats joined them, including Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, and Jay Rockefeller.

Sarah Palin Wants New AK-Sen Election

Yesterday, Think Progress noted that in the wake of the charges against Ted Stevens having been dropped, the Alaska GOP had called on Senator Begich to resign to allow for a new election.

The Alaska Republican Party further believes that current Senator Mark Begich should resign his position to allow for a new, special election, so Alaskans may have the chance to vote for a Senator without the improper influence of the corrupt Department of Justice.

Turns out, Sarah Palin concurs.

Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday echoed a call from the Alaska Republican Party for U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to resign after the Justice Department asked a judge to toss out corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens.

"I absolutely agree," Palin responded in an e-mail Thursday to the Daily News-Miner.

She said Begich should step down and a special election should be held to fill the seat.

"Come to find out, (the Department of Justice) is now revealing (Stevens) should not have been found guilty," she said. "This drastic change in circumstances, wherein truth is finally being revealed, leads me to support the call for a special, fair election -- free from the improper influence of a conviction that DOJ now tells us was improper."

I know it's becoming pretty standard for Republicans to claim election results that don't favor them are invalid, but this is pretty crazy stuff, even for Palin. Hell even Don Young is making sense.

Young dismissed those demands, calling them "a lot of noise."

"Sen. Begich, in all due respect, won the race," he said. "There is no other recourse. He has taken office, he is now the new senator."

Something else Young said gives a clue as to why Palin may have decided to show just where her allegiances lie:

Now that the corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens has been dropped, Alaska Rep. Don Young wants Stevens to run for governor -- a move that would set up a Republican primary between the veteran lawmaker and Sarah Palin, if she decides to seek a second term in 2010.

"Personally I'd like to see him run for governor, and that's my personal feeling," Young told the Alaska Public Radio Network on Thursday. "So, we'll see what happens down the line. He probably won't, but I think that would be a great way to cap off a great career as being the governor of the state of Alaska."

If you'll recall, Palin threw Young under the bus last year, endorsing his primary challenger and then refusing to support his bid for re-election. Now, payback's a bitch. Between Young's victory last year and the charges having been dropped against Stevens, things just aren't going Palin's way. You gotta think Palin intends to run for re-election next year, so that she can run for president as a sitting governor. The potential for that re-election to be a shaky one just made 2010 a little more interesting.

There's more...

Bayh rolls out "Moderate Dems Working Group": Does it matter?

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana announced plans in December to form an equivalent of the Blue Dog caucus in the Senate. Today his office rolled out the Moderate Dems Working Group:

WASHINGTON - A diverse group of 15 Senate Democrats today announced the formation of a new moderate coalition that will meet regularly to shape public policy. The group's goal is to work with the Senate leadership and the new administration to craft common-sense solutions to urgent national problems.

The Moderate Dems Working Group will meet every other Tuesday before the Democratic Caucus lunch to discuss legislative strategies and ideas. The Moderate Dems held their second meeting Tuesday to focus on the upcoming budget negotiations and the importance of passing a fiscally responsible spending plan in the Senate.

Leading the new group are Democratic Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Both Senators Bayh and Carper were successful governors before coming to the Senate. Senators Lincoln and Carper bring bicameral experience to the group as former members of the House of Representatives. All three leaders are honorary co-chairs of Third Way, a progressive Democratic policy group, and Senators Bayh and Carper have led the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

At the working group meeting, Senator Bayh acknowledged that such a large group was unlikely to agree on all major issues before the Senate. Yet the Moderate Dems are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as deficit containment, health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, energy policy and climate change.

In addition to Senators Bayh, Carper and Lincoln, others joining the group are Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

A few things jumped out at me:

15 members is a quarter of the Democratic Senate caucus. That's proportionally larger than the Blue Dog caucus in the House.

Look how many first-term senators have joined up with Bayh: McCaskill from the class of 2006 and Udall, Begich, Hagan, Shaheen and Warner from the class of 2008.

Of the Moderate Dems, only Bennet, Lincoln and Bayh are up for re-election in 2010. Lincoln and Bayh are not expected to face tough challenges.  

Of the Moderate Dems, only Lincoln, Landrieu, Begich and Ben Nelson represent states carried by John McCain. Why did the others rush to join a caucus that (based on Bayh's record) will try to water down President Barack Obama's agenda?

Back in December Matthew Yglesias advanced a very plausible hypothesis about Bayh's agenda:

With Republicans out of power, the GOP can't really block progressive change in exchange for large sums of special interest money. That creates an important market niche for Democrats willing to do the work. It was a good racket for the House Blue Dogs in 2007-2008 and there's no reason it couldn't work for Senate analogues over the next couple of years.

Bayh's press release includes a ludicrous quote from Harry Reid:

Of the working group's formation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "If we are going to deliver the change Americans demanded and move our country forward, it will require the courage to get past our political differences and get to work. Established organizations like Third Way and new ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done, and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing."

Raise your hand if you believe that Bayh's group is going to offer "a new opportunity to get things done."

The only good I can imagine coming of Bayh's venture is if the group gives some political cover to Democratic senators representing red or purple states, making it harder for Republicans to tie them to liberal bogeymen.

This optimistic scenario would pan out only if the Moderate Dems do not consistently vote as a bloc with Bayh. Earlier this month, David Waldman/Kagro X analyzed some Senate votes in which Bayh supported Republican amendments. If you click that link you'll see that various senators named in today's press release did not vote with the Bayh/Republican position.

For that reason, Waldman greeted today's news with a big yawn and doesn't seem worried that the Moderate Dems will do anything other than help Bayh show off how "moderate" he is.

The Russians say one should "hope for the best but prepare for the worst." As a Democrat who wants President Obama to succeed, I hope Waldman is right and the "Moderate Dems" are just using Bayh to bolster their "centrist" image.

On the other hand, if Bayh's group develops along the path envisioned by Yglesias, which I consider more likely, then Democrats really should prepare for the worst in 2010. The severe recession may make next year a tough environment for the president's party to begin with. If Democrats carrying water for corporate interests sink "the change we need," Democratic base turnout could drop significantly, as it did in 1994. Most of the Moderate Dems Working Group members will not face the voters until 2012 and 2014, but their obstruction could harm many other Congressional Democrats.

There's more...

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