George LeMieux (R-Fla.)
New Sen. George LeMieux — appointed in September by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) to serve through the end of 2010, finishing out the term of retired Mel Martinez — has yet to vote on any key legislation that might give us clues as to whether he would support the Kerry-Boxer climate bill.
He said after his appointment that he would want to study specific climate legislation before coming down on one side or the other, while also stressing that the nation needs to “move toward renewable energy,” which he said includes nuclear power.
LeMieux previously served as chief of staff for Crist, who emerged in 2007 as one of the nation’s most proactive Republican governors on climate change. While working under Crist, LeMieux organized a high-profile Climate Summit in 2007, at which Crist signed executive orders calling for the state to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. Said LeMieux in 2007, “There might have been a time where the jury was out [on climate change], but the jury is in now, and we know this is an issue. We can’t afford to ignore it and be wrong.”
LeMieux also worked with Crist to lay the groundwork for a statewide cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions. LeMieux wrote on his website at the time, “As the second fastest growing state with respect to annual increase in greenhouse gases (GHG), the creation of a cap and trade program was necessary and timely to address the challenge of climate change.”
LeMieux’s Senate appointment drew positive reactions from green groups like the Ocean Conservancy, which said it was “optimistic” about the new senator because of “his strong record on climate change.”
But the situation is complicated by the fact that LeMieux is essentially acting as a placeholder for Crist, who is running for the Senate seat LeMieux now occupies. Crist, who faces a conservative primary challenger, recently backed away from his support for cap-and-trade, not wanting to be seen as too liberal. LeMieux, a loyal Crist backer, may feel pressure to withhold his support from the Kerry-Boxer climate bill.
On the other hand, LeMieux might be more inclined to back a climate bill now that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) has teamed up with Democrat John Kerry (Mass.) to push for moderate climate legislation.
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