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White House Climate Plan Could Doom Embattled Incumbent Dems

Greg Campbell
Contributor

If the White House does an end-run around Congress to strike a deal on climate change with the United Nations, it will not only infuriate Republican lawmakers, but it could also tank the campaigns of some endangered Democratic senators.

Cutting Congress out of the climate change negotiations, as the Obama administration is reportedly considering, according to The New York Times, would supply more ammunition to Republican candidates who are all too happy to tie their opponents to an increasingly unpopular president.

An unnamed Democratic strategist told The Hill that the move would be like putting incumbent Democrats “in front of the firing squad.”

“You’re … making it more difficult for them to win and certainty putting them in a position to lose,” the strategist is quoted as saying.

In the competitive Colorado Senate race — which could tip the balance of power in the Senate — Republican Rep. Cory Gardner wasted no time bringing the issue into his campaign to unseat Democrat Mark Udall.

Obama’s climate change negotiators are exploring options for agreeing to a U.N. “naming and shaming” project that would call out nations who aren’t living up to goals for enacting climate change policies, according to The New York Times.

The strategy involves amending an existing U.N. climate change treaty, thereby sidestepping the need to ratify a new treaty — which requires a vote of Congress.

“Unfortunately, this would be just another of many examples of the Obama administration’s tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard laws it doesn’t like — and to ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree,” Senator Mitch McConnell told the Times in a statement.

The State Department has denied that any plan is set in stone, according to The Hill, but Democratic incumbents are already getting hammered.

In Colorado — where incumbent Udall is in a 1-point race with Gardner, according to polls aggregated by the FiveThirtyEight website — Gardner’s staff immediately called on Udall to “condemn the president’s overreach on climate.”

In a statement posted on his campaign website, Gardner’s staff called any plan to weave around Congress a “boon to radical left-wing environmentalists.”

“Senator Udall owes Coloradans an answer as to which is more important: his duty as Senator or his reputation at cocktail parties with the president and extreme anti-energy crusaders?” campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano said, adding that Udall’s supporters include California billionaire Tom Steyer, who has vowed to spend up to $100 million — including $50 million of his own wealth — supporting environmental candidates.

Udall may be feeling the pressure. In a fundraising appeal posted to his campaign website on Tuesday, he wrote, “Congressman Gardner and his dark money backers are on track to significantly outspend our team during the two weeks before mail-in ballots land on kitchen tables across Colorado.”

The post noted that Republicans have reserved 50 percent more airtime than Democrats in the weeks around when ballots will be mailed to Colorado voters.

In response to the climate change issue, a Udall spokeswoman labeled Gardner a global warming skeptic, in statements to the Colorado Independent, saying that undermines his stated support for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

“You can’t be an all-of-the-above energy guy when you refuse to listen to scientists, deny the facts behind climate change, question whether the Department of Energy should even exist, and vote for radical right-wing budgets that slash clean-energy programs, which would eliminate thousands of Colorado jobs,” spokeswoman Kristin Lynch told the website.

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