Sunday, November 9, 2014

Why I'm Not Rooting for Mary Landrieu to Win on December 6th

Earlier this week, the DSCC cancelled all of its ad buys for Mary Landrieu in the lead-up to the runoff on December 6th.

Mary Landrieu has managed to pull off odds-defying victories in runoffs in the past, and she still might win.

Like pretty much everyone on this site, I like the prospect of having a 47th seat for Team Blue. But, in this case, I'm not so sure I want it.

Let me explain.

First of all, Landrieu's victory is no longer a factor in which party controls the Senate. Republicans have--unfortunately--already cinched control.

And since it is no longer a race about who will control the Senate, it is good to think of the longer-term implications of the race. And that is where I see problems with a Landrieu victory. (Some of the following comes from a diary I wrote last year.)

After Max Baucus retired earlier this year, Ron Wyden took over the gavel of the Senate Finance Committee, freeing up the gavel for the Energy Committee. Mary Landrieu was next in line, and she was elected chair by her Democratic colleagues.

Mary Landrieu is the last Democrat one would want to be the party's highest ranking member in the Energy Committee (well, other than Joe Manchin). She has a 51% lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters. Only six Democrats who are definitely returning to the 114th Congress have below an 80%.

Mary Landrieu has consistently been one of the top recipients of oil and gas money in the Senate. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, she is the second largest recipient of oil and gas contributions this election cycle--and the biggest Democratic recipient. She received $512,336, second only to John Cornyn (R-TX) and $50,000 more than Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

During the 2008 election cycle, she was the top congressional recipient of contributions from BP, and she went to bat for BP to get the EPA to lift the ban that prevented it from securing federal contracts.
While Mary Landrieu acknowledges climate change, she opposes any serious climate action. Last year, she criticized Obama’s climate plan for being too hard on fossil fuel industries, saying he should just approve the Keystone XL pipeline instead. Accordingly, she voted to block the EPA from issuing any such regulations. Since Obama went forward anyway—much to her dismay--she joined 43 Republican colleagues and 9 Democratic ones in lobbying the EPA to slow down the rulemaking process.

The "Energy Security" page on Landrieu's website reads as a paean to oil and gas, with only a passing reference to wind and solar (to say that natural gas is a better job creator).

Since taking the gavel of the Energy Committee, she has shepherded the passage of a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, teaming up with Joe Manchin against all of the other Democrats on the committee to pass it.

Landrieu has also been a champion of increasing natural gas exports. The expansion of LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals would increase fracking, and life cycle analyses of LNG have also shown it to be as dirty as coal.

If Mary Landrieu were to lose, then Maria Cantwell (D-WA) would become the top-ranking Democrat in the Energy Committee. Cantwell has a 90% lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters. Since she entered the Senate in 2001, she has received a perfect score seven times and will likely get one this year as well. She has shown a consistent commitment to weaning the nation off fossil fuels and investing in the transition to a clean energy economy.

I expect Democrats to take back the Senate in 2016. That year, there will be a number of Republican freshman elected in the 2010 wave that will have to face a different, more Democratic-friendly presidential year electorate: Mark Kirk in Illinois, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Rob Portman in Ohio, and Marco Rubio in Florida. Richard Burr of North Carolina could also be a target, as could Johnny Isakson in Georgia. And if Chuck Grassley and John McCain retire, Iowa and Arizona could be competitive as well.

Having a 47th member of the caucus now would make that path to 50 (or 51) much easier. But I think the prospects are already good--just as long as Democrats can get their act together.

If (or should I say when?) Democrats take back the Senate, I want them to have the ability to set out a bold and comprehensive clean energy agenda. They could take up Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders's Sustainable Energy Act, which has the endorsement of, the Center for American Progress, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club.

And if we end up with a Democratic Senate but a Republican president, I want an Energy Committee chair that can serve as a bulwark against Republican energy policy. Mary Landrieu would not be such a bulwark.

The time for action on climate change is yesterday. And we don't have any chance of meaningful action in Congress for the rest of the decade if Mary Landrieu remains at the helm of the Energy Committee.

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