Saturday, November 08, 2014

GOP rules coal country but has fewer coal-friendly Democrats with whom to challenge CO2 regulations

"The Republicans’ romp this week may have permanently turned coal country from blue to red," Erica Martinson reports for Politico. "Coal-heavy districts in West Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois that had been steadily moving away from Democrats in recent elections appear to have completed that shift Tuesday, when they overwhelmingly backed Republicans who vowed to oppose what they call President Barack Obama’s 'war on coal.'"

McConnell at a Kentucky coal pile (Associated Press photo)
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who carried some Democratic coal counties that had never voted for him, has said he will use language in approprations bills to fight the Obama administration's anti-coal efforts, specifically carbon-dioxide limits aimed at limiting climate change. However, the defeat of some coal-sympathetic Democrats appears to leave him short of the 60 votes generally required to do anything significant in the Senate. He could pull out all the stops and pass the measure with 51 votes under budget-reconciliation rules, which override Senate filibusters, but he has also said he would not force a government shutdown as majority leader.

"Earlier this year, seven Senate Democrats lobbied Obama to rethink" the climate-change rules, but "One of them, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, won’t be returning next year," and another, "Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu . . . faces a difficult runoff election next month," Martinson notes. "Republicans will still have Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana to turn to on coal issues."

Manchin told Martinson he still hopes to foster some compromise on the issue, "but he hasn’t written off retreating to the state and running for his old job of governor if he can’t find common ground between the two parties in Washington," she writes, quoting him: “I’m keeping every option open, I’ll wait until next year, see how things shape out. If it looks like it’s going to be same old, same old . . . it’s not going to be a place I’m going to want to spend a great deal of time.”

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