GOP seeks to punish vulnerable Senate Dems on EPA vote

Republicans hope to translate a legislative defeat into a political victory by bashing vulnerable Senate Democrats who voted Wednesday to uphold Environmental Protection Agency rules that force pollution cuts from coal-fired power plants.

GOP candidates gunning to take down Democrats including Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Mo.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Senate Democrats want answers on 'dangerous' Amazon delivery system MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyEx-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines MORE Jr. (Pa.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE (Mont.) quickly took aim at the lawmakers’ votes to maintain rules that Republicans call economically harmful.

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Rep. Denny Rehberg’s (R-Mont.) campaign claimed Tester “today showed his support for the Obama Administration's job-killing agenda.” The campaign of John Brunner, the businessman who hopes to emerge as McCaskill’s general-election opponent, similarly pounced, claiming the rule will “severely harm” the economy of coal-dependent Missouri.

“With coal generating more than 80% of Missouri’s electricity needs, this new EPA regulation would undoubtedly increase electric rates on Missourians and threaten our jobs,” Brunner’s campaign said. Casey’s and Brown’s opponents offered similar statements.

McCaskill and Tester are among the most vulnerable Democrats in the chamber — both contests are a “toss-up” in The Hill’s race ratings. The same ratings list Brown’s contest as “leaning Democratic,” while Casey’s seat is “likely” to remain in Democrats’ hands.

The Senate, in a 46-53 vote Wednesday, blocked Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeNegotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates House rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE’s (R-Okla.) plan to scuttle EPA rules that force cuts in mercury and other air toxics from coal-fired power plants.

But the vote didn’t break along entirely partisan lines, as four Northeastern Republicans and Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (R-Tenn.) voted against Inhofe’s plan, while five Democrats voted with Inhofe and other Republicans.

Backers of the rules call the claims of economic harm badly overblown, and say the rule will yield massive public health benefits once companies come into compliance in coming years.

A White House spokesman emphasized that several Republicans crossed the aisle in backing the rules.

“Today, a bipartisan group of Senators stood with President Obama supporting sensible steps to reduce dangerous pollution that threatens the health of families and children,” said White House spokesman Clark Stevens.