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Senate Democrats Blocking McConnell's Coal Bill Puts Alison Lundergan Grimes in Tough Spot

Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

The pro-coal message of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was complicated by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Thursday, who blocked a bill introduced by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to ease federal regulations.

Reid's actions comes just days after Grimes called on the Obama administration to hold off on new environmental restrictions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell asked for unanimous consent on his  "Saving Coal Jobs Act" to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing carbon emission standards for power plants.

"The EPA has already stifled the permitting process for new coal mines; the agency has done this so dramatically that they have effectively shut down many coal mines through illegitimate, dilatory tactics," McConnell said. "The EPA’s actions ignore the thousands of people in my home state of Kentucky who depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods."

Reid quickly objected to delay the bill while promising to hold a vote at a later date despite McConnell's urgency that the measure is needed now ahead of new EPA emission standards this week.

A coal industry leader had already raised doubts about Grimes being a more effective voice for Kentucky coal operators and miners than McConnell. But Reid's maneuvering raises further questions about whether Grimes can stand up to the Democratic leader while relying on him politically to unseat McConnell."Alison isn't afraid to stand up to members of either party," a Grimes campaign aide told WFPL. "She will stand up for Kentucky as its next U.S. Senator. When she is in the Senate she will get things done on behalf of Kentucky's working families. Today just underscores McConnell's weakness and ineffectiveness. His influence isn't working and he's unable to deliver for the people of Kentucky."The Grimes campaign described McConnell's bill as an act of desperation in the face of historic job losses to the state's coal economy. But it avoided any mention of Reid or the fundraiser she is schedule to hold with the Democratic leader in Nevada next month.

It's been reported Grimes will be in Washington, D.C. on Thursday at another fundraiser that aides close to Kentucky's secretary of state say Reid may or may not attend.

For Republicans, Grimes cannot "hobnob" with Reid and his donor base and support the state's coal industry at the same time.

"Majority Leader Harry Reid recruited Alison Lundergan Grimes to run for Senate in the hopes that he could hold onto power and continue waging the war on coal in the Senate," says McConnell campaign spokeswomen Allison Moore. "If she were elected, it would guarantee that the biggest enemy of Kentucky coal families is able to continue implementing President Obama's war on coal instead of Mitch McConnell who would stop it in its tracks."

For months, the McConnell campaign has painted Reid as the chief opponent of the coal industry in the Senate and for comments such as this.


As WFPL's environment reporter Erica Peterson noted, the substance of McConnell's bill is one that would undercut greenhouse gas emission standards that are expected to be unveiled by the EPA later this week. The measure would forbid the head of any federal agency from enforcing those rules to protect air quality unless lawmakers explicitly authorize it.

But Grimes isn't embracing any of those anti-pollution initiatives publicly and has been reticent about other environmental concerns such as climate change. Thus far, the benefits of Grimes's efforts to be more pro-coal McConnell have yet to materialize.

Copyright 2013 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Phillip M. Bailey became WFPL's political editor in 2011, covering city, state and regional campaigns and elected officials. He also covers Metro Government, including the mayor's office and Metro Council. Before coming to WFPL, Phillip worked for three years as a staff writer at LEO Weekly and was a fellow at the Academy of Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
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