What’s up with Murkowski and Graham? Formerly climate-conscious GOP senators flail around
He’s the senior senator from South Carolina, a smooth-talking one-time Air Force attorney and JAG instructor whom a lot of Republicans don’t trust and call a RINO (Republican in Name Only). She’s the senior senator from Alaska, first appointed to the Senate by her father, considered “squishy” on social issues like abortion by right-wingers, and an enemy of Sarah Palin.
They used to be part of a rare breed — Republicans who acknowledged that scientists were right about climate change. But these days that’s not how they roll. You can follow their hijinks daily on Capitol Hill.
It’s The Lisa and Lindsey Show!
Bureaucrat alert! Let’s start with Lisa — that would be Lisa Murkowski. Today the Senate votes on her resolution to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. So what if she’s third among senators in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry — more than $225,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics? Or that two oil lobbyists actually helped her staff write an earlier version of the resolution last year, as Julie Eilperin revealed in The Washington Post? This resolution, she insists, is not about slowing down efforts to limit carbon emissions. It’s about stopping the EPA — or, as she likes to put it, “unelected bureaucrats” — from doing it.
Say it ain’t so: But for some reason, not everyone’s buying what she’s selling, starting with EPA Chief Lisa Jackson, who wrote this in an article published earlier this week in Grist and The Huffington Post.
Murkowski’s resolution would take away EPA’s ability to protect the health and welfare of Americans from greenhouse gas pollution. The resolution would ignore and override scientific findings and allow big oil companies, big refineries and others to continue to pollute without any oversight or consequence. It would also gut EPA’s authority in the clean cars program, a program that would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut down on air pollution.
Ms. Murkowski’s proposal is objectionable for many other reasons. It would repudiate years of work by America’s most reputable scientists and public health experts. It would prevent the E.P.A. from regulating greenhouse gases from sources like refineries and power plants in the future. And it would send a discouraging message to a federal agency that appears to take its regulatory duties seriously, unlike the Minerals Management Service, which failed to police the oil industry.
That would hamstring the nation’s ability to address climate change and lock in our preference for dirty, dangerous energy sources at a time when China and other nations are making substantial investments in clean technology. Even Abu Dhabi is building what it calls the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant and the first of its kind in the Middle East.
Serial driller: Lindsey, of course, is Lindsey Graham, the onetime partner of Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in producing the Senate’s climate and energy bill. He bailed earlier this spring and made it clear that he no longer supports the legislation he helped write, an absurd situation pinpointed by Grist’s Dave Roberts:
He says he’s bailing from the bill because, in the wake of one of the greatest offshore oil drilling disasters of all time, a bill devoted to reducing climate pollution does not expand offshore oil drilling enough. Such is the Bizarro World of the U.S. Senate.
Science is so overrated: But Suddenly Loopy Lindsey didn’t stop there. On Wednesday, after announcing that he instead would support the energy bill put forward by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) — a bill with none of the tough restrictions on carbon emissions he once deemed necessary — Graham indicated that he’s a changed man on climate change.
Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones reports on the press conference where Graham laid out his new thinking:
Reporters asked Graham several times about why he was supporting Lugar’s bill, when just a few months ago he had argued that the Senate shouldn’t pass a “half-assed” bill that lacked hard restrictions on carbon emissions. Graham replied that he now doesn’t think pricing carbon is that important. “The science about global warming has changed,” he noted, offhandedly. “I think they’ve oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they’ve been alarmist and the science is in question,” Graham told reporters. “The whole movement has taken a giant step backward.”
He went on to say that “carbon pollution is worthy of being controlled,” but his whole rambling performance was a far cry from he’s been saying for the past eight months.
Brad Plumer, writing for The New Republic, says all of Graham’s gyrations make him wonder how sincere he was about dealing with climate change to begin with:
Graham’s complaints … are ridiculous. The differences between the bill he wrote and the bill as it exists now are relatively trivial. His main complaint seems to be that Congress isn’t embarking on an offshore drilling free-for-all. Well, sure. That’s what happens when an oil company poisons large swathes of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s going to be hard to get any major new drilling incentives passed right now. That’s not some inherent flaw in the climate bill — it’s just an indication that some of his colleagues actually seem to be learning or thing or two from the BP fiasco. This whole episode really makes you wonder if Graham was ever serious about energy and climate policy in the first place.