House GOP's Parting Gift: A Lump of Coal for Campaign Season
The House left for the campaign season today with a symbolic, blue-collar bipartisan vote that took aim at the Obama administration for environmental overreach accused of killing jobs in the coal industry.
The lower chamber passed the Stop the War on Coal Act today 233-175 despite a veto threat Wednesday night from the White House.
Rep. Bill Johnson's (R-Ohio) Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act, at the core of the package of five bills, would block the Interior Department from issuing or approving any proposed or final regulation under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 that would adversely affect employment at coal mines.
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3409, which packages together a number of harmful measures that would undermine landmark environmental laws and adversely affect public health, the economy, and the environment," the Office of Management and Budget said in the veto threat. "The bill would roll back safeguards that protect public health, undercut fuel economy standards that will save Americans money at the pump while decreasing our dependence on oil, and roll back key provisions underpinning Clean Water Act protections."
Nineteen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, while 13 Republicans broke ranks to vote against it.
“I am in full support of sound legislation that advances an all-of-the-above energy strategy and leverages the complete set of resources right here in America in an environmentally-responsible way,” said Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.). “I voted against today’s bill because I share the concerns that some experts have raised that one of the embedded parts of the bill could prevent the progress I am committed to seeing in preserving and protecting the Chesapeake Bay.”
But all in all, it was a heavy Republican push to put jobs and energy front-and-center on the agenda as lawmakers head home to their districts for the drive toward Election Day.
In fact, the very act of the last vote itself had strong campaign overtones.
Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R) wasn't present for the vote, prompting the incumbent he's challenging in the fall, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), to tweet: "I think it's important to make votes, even during campaign season. Akin? Not so much. He has skipped 86%of his votes since July 1."
“President Obama has waged a steady, aggressive, and job-destroying assault on the coal industry in America, which is bleeding Pennsylvania and other coal producing states of family-sustaining jobs and affordable and accessible energy," said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.).
The congressman noted that this week Alpha Natural Resources announced it will eliminate 1,200 jobs and close eight mines in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, which its CEO said was a direct result of "a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal."