In January, Democratic Senator Harry Reid will retire from being the Majority Leader – with Republican Mitch McConnell as his replacement.
McConnell is a consummate Washington insider. After graduating from the University of Louisville in 1964, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to become an intern for Senator John Sherman Cooper. Later, he worked for both the U.S. Senate as a staff member and was also a member of the Gerald Ford administration.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, and has served in the Senate for over 30 years.
The longevity of his career makes him an expert on how the U.S. Senate works… And according to him, his first duty of business is to restore Kentucky coal to the top of America’s energy mountain.
But will he win the fight, and how else will he use his newfound power?
Righting the EPA’s Defunct Policy
Since taking office, Barack Obama has waged an unceasing war on coal. His U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has been attempting to use the regulatory power it has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30%.
But to achieve these goals, they’re forcing the closure of coal power plants nationwide.
McConnell calls this policy “a true outrage.”
But he didn’t stop there. He told The Courier-Journal, “So [Obama] has a war on coal – and, honestly, I’m going to go to war with him over coal.” He concluded his interview by saying that the U.S. Senate under his leadership would attempt to stop the administration “in any way that we can.”
The Obama administration hasn’t taken the threat lightly. Head of the EPA Gina McCarthy has been fighting back. She recently defended herself and her agency, saying, “I feel very confident that the American people understand the value of the EPA.”
Meanwhile, McConnell hasn’t hesitated to shoot back. He recently told The Associated Press, “Look, my first obligation is to protect my people, who are hurting as the result of what this administration is doing.”
Tossing more fuel on the fire… he called the Obama administration’s global warming deal with China a “phony deal,” adding that “coal is booming elsewhere. Our country, going down this path all by ourselves, is going to have about as much impact as dropping a pebble in the ocean.”
From a Clear Coal Fight to a Murky Future
It’s clear, McConnell will fight for coal. McConnell concluded a recent interview by giving confirmation: “So for the president to pursue his crusade at the expense of the people of my state is completely unacceptable, and I’m going to do any and everything I can to stop it.”
But aside from his clear stance on coal and a few other things – like the Keystone XL pipeline (for which he’s pledged to pass legislation) – he’s mum about his agenda beyond that…
Will he fight the Obama amnesty for illegal immigrants? (McConnell is non-committal.)
Will he fight Obama’s foreign policy adventures in Syria? (It looks unlikely.)
Whether McConnell will go down in history as a great Majority Leader will depend on how well he navigates the difficult relations with our recalcitrant president. Especially since Obama has declared his intention to ignore both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House… and pursue his own agenda via executive action.
It’s a hard call at the moment, but January will be here soon enough.
Your eyes on the Hill,