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McConnell: EPA "Crusade" Against Emissions from Coal Plants Will Have No Impact on Environment

Abbey Oldham

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his plans should he win re-election next month and should he become Senate Majority Leader.

The latter will happen if McConnell defeats Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republicans win a net of six Senate seats in November. McConnell has told audiences and reporters that, if he became Senate Majority Leader, he would seek to defeat President Obama’s legislative agenda by adding language to spending bills that would strip funding from projects the President supports.

In an interview with WKU Public Radio Wednesday, McConnell was asked specifically which programs he would seek to defund.

WKU Public Radio: What specific programs or initiatives would you seek to block if you were to become Senate Majority Leader?

Sen. Mitch McConnell: Well, my first choice, obviously, is to see what the President is willing to do with us. We need to do comprehensive tax reform. It’s been 30 years since we scrubbed the code. The President says he wants to do trade agreements. That’s a big winner for Kentucky agriculture. So I think you would anticipate kind of a mix of things, hopefully working on things we can agree on together.

But there are some things we would differ on. The initiatives that the President has carried out through the regulatory side have been quite burdensome to the economy. And we would indeed seek to reign in the regulators, and a good example of that is the war on coal, which has created a depression in eastern Kentucky.

Now, he’ll have the final word, and he can veto the bill.

One would assume the President’s not going to change his mind regarding the Affordable Care Act. Is that something you would look at targeting?

Yeah, he’s not. But interestingly enough, there are pieces of it that are very unpopular: the medical device tax, the tax on wheelchairs and stents. We had a vote in the Senate last year—unfortunately it was not a binding vote, but it was a vote on repealing the medical device tax. Seventy-nine Senators voted for it, including very liberal Senators like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

I think we’d be very likely to vote on things like that.

You mentioned what you call—and what your Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes has called—the “war on coal.” Should the E.P.A. have any regulatory authority over emissions from coal-fired power plants? Where would you draw the line?

There have been regulations on coal plants for a long time. We’re not talking about no regulations at all. What we’re talking specifically about are two new regulations. One guarantees that there would never be another coal-fired plant built in America.

And the second one targets existing plants in such a way that they begin to be phased out.

This is all in pursuit of global carbon emissions. Now, if you thought that was an important problem, it would have to be addressed on a global basis. I think it’s important to remember that the Indians and the Chinese are building coal plants, the Europeans are importing coal, and the Australians just repealed their carbon tax, which is their version of what the President is trying to do through E.P.A. here.

This particular crusade is going to have no impact on the problem, even if you believe that that’s a problem that ought to be addressed. And it has huge pain, not just in Kentucky, but in other states—particularly in the Midwest—that depend on coal-fired generation for lost-cost electricity.”

You’ve said that, at least in general, you support President Obama’s recently announced policy in dealing with the group that has called itself “ISIS” and the “Islamic State”—in terms of training moderate Syrian rebels and in terms of air strikes. If that strategy were not an effective deterrent against ISIS, can you imagine a scenario in which you would support U.S. ground forces being sent to take on ISIS?

Nobody is talking about U.S. ground troops going after ISIS at this point, but it’s pretty that they’re a threat to the United States. A number of these radical gang members have U.S. passports. A number of them have British passports. I think the President is moving in the direction of taking this seriously. I think the beheading of Americans posted on the internet certainly got everybody’s attention.

This is going to be a long-term threat. We saw it on 9/11. It’s a long-term threat to the U.S. and to our allies around the world.

WKU Public Radio has invited Democratic Senate challenger and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to Bowling Green for an in-person interview. In the meantime, we spoke to Grimes over the phone Wednesday, and aired parts of that interview throughout newscasts Wednesday and Thursday. 

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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