Conservatives candidates tend to stay conservative in office and progressives stick to their beliefs, too. Moderates pretty much stay moderate.
But last week, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) added an exclamation point to a pretty radical shift when he cast the deciding vote to gut a critical climate measure.
It’s not surprising that this Congress, with its open hostility to putting limits on carbon pollution, would attempt to derail the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The shocking part is that the matter was decided, for now at least, by someone who ran for the Senate as an environmental moderate.
The committee vote is not the last word on the EPA’s plan; hopefully the full Senate will reject this attempt to let the carbon spew. But it is certainly true that those who voted for this provision meant to put an end to the Clean Power Plan.
They are now on the record as favoring the status quo of unlimited carbon pollution from existing power plants – the largest source of this pollution. Never mind the urgent need to reduce climate pollution, the asthma attacks and health costs that would be reduced, or the boost the plan would give to clean energy.
Back in 2010 when then-Congressman Mark Kirk ran for the Senate, there was reason to believe he would be a thoughtful moderate on environmental issues. In the House, he cast pro-environment votes about two-thirds of the time, according to the League of Conservation Voters.
But after his narrow win – earned because he did better than other Republicans in independent and progressive areas of Illinois – his record got worse. A lot worse.
During his time in the Senate, Kirk has cast anti-environment votes more than two-thirds of the time. You read that right: It’s been a complete turnaround from two-thirds pro-environment to two-thirds anti-environment.
I can imagine that leaves a lot moderate voters in Illinois feeling they got the bait and switch.
Voters will have final say
Kirk’s lunge to the right was a genuine surprise to those who followed his pre-Senate career.
Maybe he changed his views to curry favor with party bosses in Washington, maybe it was out of fear of the Tea Party. Or maybe his earlier pro-environment record was just an unavoidable necessity in his moderate House district.
But Democracy has a way of working these things out. Kirk won by a small margin in a progressive state in a low turnout mid-term election.
Next year he has to run for re-election in that same progressive state in a high turnout presidential election year. Which means that next fall lots of Illinois voters will get the chance to express their opinion on Senator Kirk’s vote for unlimited carbon pollution.
Let’s hope, for his sake, he cleans up his act before then.
I have nothing glib to say, and I won't attempt to sound more intellectual than the next person. But I am here to point out a few very simple problems that could be solved. My name is Nick Thayne and I don't care who know's it -- I am 72 years old and I have been on this very beautiful planet a long time. I kind of feel like I was here in the beginning when it was safe to drink water from a mountain stream. I was here when you saw the magnificent waves diving into the shore leaving nothing but sea weed and the remnants of foam. And when the sun sets were bright with yellow streams of it's special light instead of a fire-red flame from the remnants of dangerous particles from car exhaust, industrial pollutants, or God knows what.
Doesn't anyone out there remember when you could listen to the news forever, it seemed, without hearing cries of help from around the entire world, or -- here at home -- about mass murders, or families being plundered by a father gone mad because he was unable to support them. Unable because of the enormous greed of people who lead the government around buy the nose. while they call us "free."
I find it almost impossible not to laugh -- oh, wait! Those are tears.
In reply to The changing climate is a by Kathy Barker
Next year you have to run for re-election in the same progressive state, in a high-turnout presidential election year. Which means that next fall lots of Illinois voters will get the chance to express their opinion on your, Senator Kirk’s, vote for unlimited carbon pollution.
I hope, for your sake, that you clean up his act before then.
If politicians would just acknowledge the validity of the scientific evidence.
Hi Keith, how are you?
I guess that Sen. Kirk has the wrong opinions about this. I'll send my message to him. Excellent article.
Well, Senator Mark Kirk's (R - IL) anti-climate vote could be a thought-provoking attempt to make us bring out our best in order to explain fully what climate change entails. I am sure he's not the only one. Others may just be trying to avoid that kind of blame. He may be very honest in his opinion. What we need to do here, right now, is to try to convince him accept a hard fact with clear evidence. At the end of the day, he needs to understand that climate change is a fact and based on global warming.
I have no use for Sen. Kirk or any of the other anti-environmental Republicans in Congress, but nor do I have much use for turning the EDF blog into a political advocacy medium. You should just stick to reporting the news and not encourage your readers to take political action, even if it is on an important issue such as fighting climate change.
Ken, thanks for your comment. I think we just disagree on one point: Part of EDF’s mission is to hold members of Congress accountable by speaking out about their records, good and bad. Politics, in the sense of being involved in the public debate about the actions of elected officials, is necessary to environmental progress. All the landmark environmental laws – the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, establishment of the EPA etc. – were achieved by pushing Congress to take action. If environmentalists don’t engage in political action by speaking out, or groups fail to encourage those actions, we can't make the changes we need.
Soy español, y me expresaré en este idioma. Es increíble, pero la situación política, sin respaldos políticos mataran el ecosistema, como puede pasar en la costa en Zahara de los Atunes.
The changing climate is a crisis and there is no time for those who use it as a political chip.
Kathy BarkerJune 23, 2015 at 6:10 pm