Twisting the truth, manipulating the political process and pandering to constituents have dominated the establishment Republican campaigns during the extremely competitive primary season. The political gamesmanship surrounding energy policy illuminates the failures of establishment Republicans to defend the interests of their constituents.
Tragically, for Kentucky coal miners, Mitch McConnell’s tough guy stance against President Obama’s war on coal is dominated by strong words and campaign commercials backed by inconsequential actions. While campaign ads by McConnell Senate Committee 14 and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tout him as leading the effort against Obama’s war on coal, the evidence shows his fight is nothing more than a whimper.
McConnell’s efforts have done absolutely nothing to impede let alone stop Obama’s stubborn determination to eliminate the coal industry.
The consequences of the regulatory assault by the Environmental Protection Agency against coal-based electricity generation have been devastating. Two coal companies, Patriot Coal and James River Coal Company have filed for bankruptcy, coal mining stocks have plummeted over eighty percent and 2,000 Kentucky coal miners lost their jobs in 2013.
Crucially, McConnell refuses to use the power of his senior Senate position to reign in the EPA through the budget process. During the 2014 budget negotiations Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY) tried to block the EPA from advancing its new greenhouse gas regulations for power plants but Republicans caved to the Democrats.
Instead of leading the fight for his coal mining constituents, McConnell punted to fight for another day. Being an election year, McConnell needed a shiny object to show Kentucky coal miners to distract them for his embarrassing performance in protecting their jobs. In a cynical maneuver to manipulate his coal mining constituents, McConnell stated his intention to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the EPA greenhouse gas rule shortly after the budget deal was finalized.
In reality, McConnell’s resolution to block the EPA via the CRA will go nowhere since it needs to pass Congress and if it were to pass the Senate by a majority vote it would certainly be rejected by President Obama. Being an experienced politician, McConnell has mastered the art of manipulating the system to look good while achieve nothing for his coal mining constituents.
North Carolina Republican primary Senate candidate Tom Tillis offers another example of an establishment candidate that has mastered the legislative process to serve his political needs and not his constituents. Tillis is the Republican establishment choice in a tough Senate primary race to face Democrat Kay Hagan in November. Similar to McConnell, energy policy exposes Tillis’s failure as a true conservative willing to fight government regulations.
In 2007, North Carolina passed a renewable energy standard that mandates utilities to generate electricity from renewable energy sources. In 2014, utilities must get 3 percent of power from wind, solar and other sources and the amount increases to 12.5 percent in 2021. The renewable energy mandate is responsible for an increase in power rates for North Carolina residents. Tillis voted for the renewable energy standard in 2007 with the Democrats but now that he’s in campaign mode, Tillis supports a repeal of the state mandate.
Unfortunately, for his constituents, Tillis’s words don’t match his actions. As speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, instead of driving a repeal bill through the House, it was referred to four different committees where it predictably died in the 2013 legislative session.
Unsurprisingly, Tillis’s Senate campaign has drawn the attention of the big business community including those interested in promoting green energy. Duke Energy – a supporter of the state energy mandate and a sustainable energy association – has donated to Tillis’s Senate campaign.
The upcoming primaries provide a great opportunity for voters to reject the establishment politicians that play legislative games to serve their political interests and not the interests of their constituents.