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June 29, 2014 1:30 PM Who’s Better, Who’s Best

By D.R. Tucker

Not to gainsay the importance of the conflict in Iraq, but it would have been nice to see Bob Schieffer ask Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) about another matter with international consequences this morning on CBS Face the Nation:

Just a few days ago, Manchin joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to discuss their effort to find common ground on climate, despite the former’s representation of a coal state:

The Manchin-Whitehouse effort was profiled on Politico—itself something of a shock—but I guess it wasn’t big enough news for Face the Nation, despite the program’s previous climate coverage. Wonder why they decided to overlook this.

What we cannot overlook, however, is Manchin’s refusal to support efforts to put a price on carbon—a stance he demonstrated in grotesque fashion four years ago, a stance he reaffirmed in his discussion with Whitehouse. If you need sixty votes to get a climate bill through the Senate, and Manchin and fellow Democrats Mary Landrieu and Claire McCaskill aren’t terribly interested in legislation that puts a price on carbon, what do you do?

The answer may, or may not, be found in the Pine Tree State. There’s a bit of a controversy over the decision by some major environmental groups to support the re-election of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), despite her somewhat controversial record on climate:

Over the course of her career, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has stood apart from most of her GOP colleagues on the issue of the environment. She has supported climate change legislation and curbs on carbon emissions, winning nods of approval from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the League of Conservation Voters.
As Collins campaigns for reelection this year, however, her candidacy is exposing tensions within the environmental movement. Some environmentalists in Maine contend that national green groups are hurting their cause by throwing their support behind an imperfect candidate. Collins’ Democratic opponent in the race, Shenna Bellows, has made environmental issues a key part of her campaign and would be a much more reliable supporter of the movement, they argue.
“When it comes to the environment, we cannot afford D-grade leadership in Washington,” said Bellows in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Given the strong environmental movement in Maine, [Collins] should be offering stronger environmental leadership. We are at a turning point on the environment, and she is hesitating.”
But Bellows faces a tough fight to unseat Collins. The most recent polling in the state finds the incumbent with a 55-point lead over her challenger. This goes a long way toward explaining why national environmental groups would like to stay on Collins’ good side: They expect to spend at least another six years trying to get her to stand with them in the Senate.
We think bipartisanship is required to achieve major environmental progress,” said Keith Gaby, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund. “Ultimately, that’s the way we’re really going to solve climate change.”

There is an argument that to get back to 350 parts per million of C02 in the atmosphere, climate-concerned voters have to play a numbers game. If one’s goal is to pass, for example, legislation that puts a price on carbon and returns all collected revenue to households as a dividend, and if one recognizes a certain percentage of Democrats from dirty-energy states are unlikely to vote for such legislation (to say nothing of other Democrats who may disagree with the concept of a rebated carbon tax because they feel that the collected fees should be used for purposes that are presumably anathema to the Fox News crowd), then one will have to figure out a way to get Republicans who have not yet surrendered their souls to the Kochs on board.

That may be the logic at play with the green endorsements of Sen. Collins. It will be interesting to see if Bellows generates enough momentum over the next few months to prompt a reconsideration of these endorsements. If Collins ultimately wins, it will be interesting to see if she can somehow pull her party, and the planet, back from the boiling brink.

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