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Jun. 10 2010 - 5:10 pm | 383 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Murkowski vote reveals dirty Democrats

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 12:  U.S. Sen. Lisa Murko...

Senator Lisa Murkowski R-Alaska. Image by Getty Images via @daylife

UPDATED with tally of Gulf Coast senators.

If you want to know why the United States has failed to act on climate change–a political failure that could precipiate a larger political failure for the world–here’s one answer: Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Those are the six Senate Democrats who voted with Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski this afternoon in a failed effort to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. Murkowski enjoyed the support of all her fellow Republicans in the resolution, which went down 47-53 (roll call).

Independent Joe Lieberman voted with the majority to defeat the resolution.

The vote might have been closer, but North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, who has come out against a carbon cap in the past, has been liberated by his pending retirement to support climate legislation with little fear of reprisal from North Dakota’s powerful coal interests. However, pending retirement worked the opposite way for Evan Bayh, from coal-dependent Indiana, who voted for the resolution.

Federal action on climate change has been stalled in the Senate, where Democrats were unable to bring a climate bill to the floor even when they held a 60-vote Senate supermajority. The crucial hinge has always been those Senate Democrats obstructing their own party’s efforts in order to shield the oil and coal industries from increased regulation and the prospect of eventual obsolescence.

So tenacious is the grip of oil on the Senate that all but one of the Senators from the Gulf states threatened by the BP oil spill–Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi Alabama, and Florida–voted with Murkowski, a vote to preserve the economy’s dependence on carbon-heavy fossil fuels. Florida’s Bill Nelson, a Democrat, was the lone no vote.

This has been Murkowski’s second attempt to strip regulatory power from the EPA. Her first fell short in September.

The EPA has the power to implement a carbon cap and trade program under the Clean Air Act–an authority given it by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court–but it has held that power in reserve in favor of legislation action. If EPA acts on its own, its regulation would likely be held up by lawsuits.


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  1. collapse expand

    Sad to see Rockefeller on this list, but not surprising. Given he was one of the few adamant progressive voices on health care and the public option, I want to support the man, but stuff like this will always knock him down a peg. But, he is protecting his constituents, give him that. Voted in by coal, voting for coal.

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    Environmental reporting recruited me 25 years ago—on my first day as a reporter for my college newspaper, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in the regular city trash. Since then I've written hard news for dailies, including the Arizona Republic, and slanty news for alternative weeklies, including Newcity. I've written a column for New Times, stories on the Web for Forecast Earth, essays for PEN International and other magazines. I lived in an idyllic California village nestled among volcanoes and vineyards until my batteries were full of sunshine, and then I returned to my origins on the South Side of Chicago, where hope persists with no illusions about the struggle ahead. I cross the asphalt jungle by bicycle and el, mostly to get to the University of Chicago, where I teach journalism. But what matters more than any of this is a lifelong love for the natural world. We are all born with it, I believe, but some turn away.

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