With a few days left before the November midterm elections, polls remain down to the wire in many races. As Republicans look to make moderate gains in the House of Representatives and vie for control of the Senate majority we may see people casting votes that reflect low presidential approval ratings and nominal support for the Affordable Care Act. This is nothing new, as voting against the party and policies of an incumbent president is a phenomenon seen in five of the last six post-WWII second-term midterm elections.
While Ebola and threats from ISIL continue to move to the forefront of voters’ minds, a few key races have serious implications for energy legislation in the next Congress.
The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, finds himself in one of the closest and most expensive re-election races in the country. In Kentucky, President Obama’s carbon rule hits particularly close to home, with McConnell (R) and opponent Allison Lundergran-Grimes (D) both vying to be seen as the most “coal-friendly” candidate.
In Colorado, Congressman Cory Gardner (R) is running against incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D), in a race featuring several Republican ads focused on energy issues. In an October debate, Gardner and Udall exchanged heated words regarding whether or not a carbon tax was helpful in curbing climate change from man-made emissions. When it comes to regulating oil and gas operations, Gardner has sponsored House bills to increase access to domestic land for oil production and has sponsored a bill to streamline the permitting process for drilling on the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf. Both Gardner and Udall have sponsored bills aimed at to streamlining the permitting processes for liquefied natural gas exports.
Finally, the Senate race with potential to have the biggest impact on the energy industry – the Louisiana Senate race – may not be decided until a month after Election Day. With incumbent and current Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Mary Landrieu (D) facing Congressman Bill Cassidy (R) in a tight race, polling data continues to point to a December 6 runoff, which could be impacted by Southeastern Conference Football, if the Louisiana State University Tigers play in the SEC Championship game on the same day.
Though some key races may drag into December and January, both Republicans and the White House are beginning to brainstorm plans for the next Congress. As House Republicans look to expand their majority, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has begun publicly discussing plans for working with a Republican-controlled Senate, naming energy issues as a top priority. One idea brought forth by McCarthy is the possibility of paying for highway spending through drilling on public lands.
Meanwhile, the White House is beginning to consider what it would look like to work with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. White House aides have mentioned tax reform, infrastructure, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, early childhood education and sentencing reform as areas for a possible collaboration. Senate Republicans claim to be ready to work together on trade, infrastructure spending and sentencing reform.
Let us know below what you think will happen in the elections and what that means for energy policy going forward, and don’t forget to get out and vote on November 4.