Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter, who announced his switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party today, will remain a key swing vote in a Senate locked by GOP filibusters on green economy legislation like cap and trade, renewable energy standards, and green jobs programs. Specter will be joining a bloc of conservative Democratic senators who are publicly skeptical of President Obama’s clean energy agenda, and who have repeatedly voted against Obama’s proposal to place limits on global warming pollution:
Ideologically, Specter is in line with Democrats like Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), who worries that Obama’s clean economy proposal may “suck money” from his state, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is “against forcing petrochemical companies” to “bear the brunt of new costs,” and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who worries cap and trade “could have a negative impact on our economy.”
Specter, whose top donors include the electric utilities Exelon Corporation and PPL Corporation, has told Pennsylvania students that “his main platform in running for re-election is global warming.” There’s still time for him — and the Democrats he’s joining — to build that platform, but more change will have to come.
At Climate Progress, Joe Romm writes:
Needless to say, as a Republican facing a tough primary challenge from the right, he was a lost vote on global warming legislation. One assumes that if he is going to seriously run as a Democrat, he’ll support an energy and climate bill.
,Full chart of Specter and Democrats with similar voting records on green economy legislation:
,Grist‘s David Roberts:
So what are his positions on climate change? Roughly those of a conservative Democrat. He voted against the McCain-Lieberman climate bill twice and declined to vote for cloture for the Lieberman-Warner climate bill last year. He said that the latter bill contained “very difficult standards which I, candidly, do not think are attainable.” As an alternative he has pushed a bill co-sponsored with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the “Low-Carbon Economy Act,” which has weak targets, free permits, automatic off-ramps, and all the rest of the kinds of provisions that neuter a climate bill.
,Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) responds to the switch:
Sen. Specter has already supported many pieces of President Obama’s agenda this year, but I hope his decision to switch parties means we’ll get the support we need to enact even more of this administration’s initiatives. I have worked with Sen. Specter in the past to develop climate change legislation, and I know he has a deep interest in energy policy and health care reform, as well. Clearly, many of Sen. Specter’s priorities are the priorities of this administration and this Congress.