Well, now we know why Senator Jay Rockefeller is retiring. It’s because he’s gotten to that age where you have to keep a really, really close watch over what you’re babbling: “A senior Democratic senator suggested Wednesday that President Obama’s race factored into opposition to the Affordable Care Act, sparking outrage on the part of one of his Republican colleagues.” Basically, what Rockefeller did here was to wait until a hearing room was almost empty and then snidely suggest that Republican opposition to Obamacare was likely due to the President’s skin color*’**. This did not sit well with Senator Ron Johnson (I said that the room was almost empty):
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who came to West Virginia as a young man from one of the world’s richest families to work on antipoverty programs and remained in the state to build a political legacy, announced Friday he will not seek a sixth term.
Jay Rockefeller was not on my list of particularly vulnerable Senators for 2014 – I figured that incumbency + money + ability to stay to the right of his national party on various issues = low risk – so this is a nice potential pickup. The timing on this is interesting for the Democrats, too: their most obvious choice for a replacement (Earl Ray Tomblin) just won re-election for West Virginia Governor in 2012 after winning a special election in 2011*, so trying to jump from there to the Senate in the 2014 election is going to be itself the most obvious campaign issue. Which might not stop Tomblin, and it might not stop Tomblin from winning, but it’s a complication.
So, all in all, net gain for us.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Which took place because Senator Robery Byrd died and was replaced by… Governor Joe Manchin, who resigned his position in order to run for the seat. If Tomblin’s going to do that, too, it does make one wonder if the Democrats really like having one of their own be governor of West Virginia…
It’s kind of quiet, but there may be one actually brewing. Compare this:
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., seems to have become a convert. Last week he signaled strongly that promises from the White House are not enough. During a Senate hearing on Obama’s proposal for the * budget, Rockefeller lashed out.
According to one published report, Rockefeller made it clear “he isn’t sure he trusts the president’s commitments to coal. …” Referring to Obama’s pledges to support coal, the senator complained that, “He says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in (his budget proposal). He doesn’t say it in the actions of (EPA Administrator) Lisa Jackson. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”
…with this (by Senator Byrd, D-WV):
To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem. To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say “deal me out.” West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.
The 20 coal-producing states together hold some powerful political cards. We can have a part in shaping energy policy, but we must be honest brokers if we have any prayer of influencing coal policy on looming issues important to the future of coal like hazardous air pollutants, climate change, and federal dollars for investments in clean coal technology.
Most people understand that America cannot meet its current energy needs without coal, but there is strong bi-partisan opposition in Congress to the mountaintop removal method of mining it. We have our work cut out for us in finding a prudent and profitable middle ground – but we will not reach it by using fear mongering, grandstanding and outrage as a strategy.
So we seem to have a difference of opinion between Senators Rockefeller and Byrd about whether one can trust the President on coal policy as far as one can throw him. It would be unkind to suggest that the reason for this is that the former is still in a position to run at least once more for elected office, while the latter… let us just say (without any ill-wish) that it is rather low-probability that Senator Byrd will be still in the Senate in 2013. It is thus in the best interests of Senator Rockefeller to speak in terms that recognizes one elementary truth (that this administration hates coal production with the fury of a thousand burning suns**), while Senator Byrd speaks in terms that recognizes another elementary truth (that his staff is probably going to need to find new jobs in the Democratic establishment in the not-too-distant future).
One hopes that this hasn’t caused a break between the two. They’ve been Senators together for so long that their professional relationship is old enough to serve in the House of Representatives****.
Moe Lane (more…)