First 100 Days of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate

The Senate has been led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for 100 days, and it's hard to ignore the evidence that corporate interests are trumping public health and welfare when it comes to addressing climate change.

A storm rolls over a Texas wind farm.
A storm rolls over a Texas wind farm. (TexBex / Flickr)

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After 100 days of a Senate led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), it is hard to ignore the evidence that corporate interests are trumping public health and welfare when it comes to addressing climate change.  Chances are you didn’t vote for this corporate takeover, but that’s exactly what you’re getting.

Most recently, Senator McConnell led and pushed through a vote that was little more than an EPA smear campaign. His ploy? To take away tools from the EPA that prompt states to comply with the Clean Power Plan—the EPA’s draft proposal for reining in carbon pollution from power plants. Oddly enough, the EPA couldn’t even use such tools under the Clean Air Act, so was this simply an exercise of McConnell’s control over his caucus, or an effort to intimidate EPA?

It bears repeating that 97 percent of climate scientists, as well as NASA, agree that the Earth's temperature is and has been rising at a rapid and dangerous rate primarily due to increased carbon in the atmosphere.  Extreme weather events like hurricanes and prolonged droughts, like the one in California that recently led to the first-ever mandatory water use reductions in the Golden State’s history, have been linked to climate change. Climate change also threatens public health with increased air pollution and more intense smog. Ultimately, it threatens lives as well as livelihoods, as we all bear the economic harm and public health risks that come with weathering these impacts.

But there is a bit of good news: when it is finalized this summer, EPA’s Clean Power Plan will put protections in place for our environment.  Issued under the authority of the Clean Air Act, this plan will be a big step in the right direction toward reducing the carbon pollution from the biggest polluters.  Of course, Senator McConnell has advised states to delay implementing the plan, relying upon the legal gymnastics performed by Prof. Larry Tribe, a once well-respected legal thinker turned paid spokesperson for the world’s largest private sector coal company, to support his plea.  

When implemented, the Clean Power Plan will further drive investment in new and existing clean energy technologies and create tens of thousands of jobs. Although corporate polluters spent more than $700 million to help McConnell and his allies win the Senate majority last year,  that sort of influence pales in comparison to the power that the people have to demand that public health and welfare be placed above polluter profits.

From 2001 to 2019, Sarah was on Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team, working on Capitol Hill at the intersection of agricultural policy and climate policy and promoting a food system that is more resilient and just.

Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.