Democrats Divided on New Obama Climate Change Rules

Image: Democrats Divided on New Obama Climate Change Rules Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, left, and Sen. Mary Landrieu

Monday, 02 Jun 2014 08:58 AM

By Melanie Batley

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President Barack Obama's announcement Monday of new rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions is pitting some Democratic lawmakers against environmentalists and donors within their own party.

The regulations will implement state-by-state limits on carbon emissions from coal plants, putting pressure on Democrats facing difficult races in energy-producing states where possible job losses could cost them critical votes, The Washington Post reported.

"Coal keeps the lights on in Kentucky — plain and simple — and I will not stand idle as overreaching regulation adversely impacts jobs and middle-class families," Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is hoping to unseat Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said in September, according to the Post.

Some of the most vulnerable lawmakers potentially facing political fallout from the new rules include Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, the Post reported. Their seats could be crucial in retaining control of the Senate.

Landrieu, for example, has repeatedly voted against the administration's environmental proposals, and co-sponsored a measure that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

"People do recognize that '14 is a pivot year for climate, because of the fact that on an everyday basis people are feeling a direct, immediate pocketbook impact on their daily lives," Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist, told the Post.

"You've got to win Iowa, you've got to win New Hampshire, you've got to keep Colorado" to keep the majority, Lehane said. "As much as I love polar bears, and I love butterflies, we're not going to be talking about them in these campaigns."

But other Democratic operatives say that while liberal donors tend to support climate change regulation, they do not expect the issue will ultimately make or break Democratic chances or undermine ongoing financial support of the party.

David Kenney, a Colorado Democratic strategist and Obama bundler, told the Post, "This race is not about fracking, it's about control of the United States Senate and a number of public policies that will be affected by that."

"I haven’t heard anybody say I won't vote for this person or that person over fracking. Every conversation I've been in is, we cannot lose the United States Senate."

He added, "I'd politely suggest they send their checks and let us figure out our public policy."

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