Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Senate Democrats and the Environmental Agenda

Despite midterm election losses in the Senate, the Democrats managed to hang on to a narrow majority. But what does that mean for energy and climate issues?

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has won re-election and will remain Chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer will continue to work for clean energy and the environment.

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev) will retain his position as Majority Leader. Senator Reid has been the President’s lead advocate on advancing renewable energy and regulating the fossil fuel industry.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will remain the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senator Bingaman is a lead proponent of a renewable electricity mandate. Bingaman is also an advocate of more responsible rules for offshore oil and gas production.

Besides control of these committees, the Democratic Senate majority could stop the Republican controlled House from getting environmentally destructive legislation onto the President's desk. But we should remember that Democratic Senators have little respect for party discipline and some have demonstrated a propensity to break ranks when they feel it serves their political interests.

Democratic Senators who have betrayed the party, the President and the environment, include Sens. Ben Nelson, (D-Neb.), Jim Webb, (D-Va.). Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

With the Democrats holding 23 of the 33 Senate seats being contested in 2012 (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats), Senators will have to choose between pandering to public confusion or taking on the tough issues. It remains to be seen whether Democrats will try to lead America to a cleaner more secure future or follow the polls and cower in fear.

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