Despite Environmental Endorsements, Sen. Susan Collins Has Spotty Record on Confronting Climate Change
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), facing reelection this year in a strongly Democratic state, has garnered the support of national environmental organizations despite a conflicted record on climate policy. In September 2013, the League of Conservation Voters launched an ad campaign praising Collins’ “environmental leadership.” A new advertisement from the Environmental Defense Fund and Moms Clean Air Force praises Collins for “confronting climate change” in marked contrast to the majority of her Republican colleagues. The organizations have not formally endorsed a candidate in the rate.
The EDF ad cites Collins’ vote on “S. Amdt 359 to SCon Res 8, Roll Call #76, 3/22/13.” That day Collins broke with the Republican caucus to vote against an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) prohibiting further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change.
She cast a similar vote on April 6, 2011, when she broke the Republican ranks to vote against the McConnell amendment prohibiting EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.
On December 11, 2009, Collins and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced climate legislation (S. 2877) in competition with Kerry-Boxer (S. 1733), the Senate version of the Waxman-Markey bill. Cantwell-Collins offered a simpler cap-and-trade system and weaker emissions targets than Kerry-Boxer.
However, a broader review of her voting record finds that Collins repeatedly acted to help Republicans prevent the passage of climate legislation during the Obama presidency and to weaken executive action on climate rules:
- On April 1, 2009, Collins allied with Republicans and conservative Democrats in key votes to preserve the ability of Republicans to filibuster climate legislation during Obama’s first term. She voted against non-filibusterable budget reconciliation for green economy legislation, if “the Senate finds that public health, the economy and national security of the United States are jeopardized by inaction on global warming” (Roll Call Vote #125). She then voted to prohibit the use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system (Roll Call #126. She voted for Sen. Kit Bond’s amendment establishing a point of order against climate change or similar legislation that would increase federal revenues (Roll Call #142).
These votes arguably made the future demise of climate legislation in the Senate inevitable, in contrast to health care legislation, which became law through the reconciliation process despite unified Republican opposition.
- On April 6, 2011, Collins voted for Rockefeller’s bill to delay greenhouse-gas regulations for two years (Roll Call #53).
- On March 21 and 22, 2013, Collins voted for Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would create a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions (Roll Call #59) and against Sen. Whitehouse’s amendment that would support the creation of a carbon fee (Roll Call #58).
Moreover, Collins has been a consistent supporter of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, voting that “that no additional safety or environmental analysis of the pipeline was necessary” in 2012 (Roll Call #34) and in 2013 (Roll Call #61). Collins is also “the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation that has not called upon the State Department to do a full environmental review” of the possibility of the Portland Montreal Pipeline being used to carry tar sands crude, as the Canadian government opens the route from Alberta to Quebec for the carbon-intensive fossil fuel.
Although Collins has expressed a desire for “limiting the worst effects of climate change,” when the opportunity has come to display true climate leadership, she has supported her caucus instead more often than not.