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What Does LeMieux’s Appointment Mean for Climate Legislation?

Short answer: Hard to say.

Long answer: Retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) has been a moderate voice on environmental policy — he voted for cloture on the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill last year — and his departure could deprive Democrats of one of their few potential Republican allies on this issue. Odds are that the environmentally friendly Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) will end up taking Martinez’s seat, but not until January 2011, well past when Democrats hope to enact climate legislation.

In the interim, Florida’s junior senator will be George LeMieux, a close Crist ally appointed today by the governor to fill Martinez’s seat. LeMieux doesn’t have a legislative record, but he’s broadcast his views in other ways. Ben Wessel at 1Sky has compiled some of his writings on climate policy, most of which are pretty favorable toward cap-and-trade. For instance, in the Palm Beach Post, he wrote about climate change:

There might have been a time where the jury was out, but the jury is in now, and we know this is an issue. We can’t afford to ignore it and be wrong.

And on his blog, he wrote:

Florida’s clean energy economy should be among the top in the nation … it is important to look at alternative energy solutions and build a foundation that will have a positive long-term impact on Florida’s economy.

Yet LeMieux’s primary loyalty seems to be to Crist himself — he’s Crist’s closest adviser, and he describes himself as “a Charlie Crist Republican.” And right now, the last thing Crist wants is to be seen as, well, liberal. Crist is facing a primary challenge in his bid for the U.S. Senate from the conservative Marco Rubio, who will undoubtedly challenge Crist’s conservative credentials. If LeMieux wants to do Crist a favor, he won’t inflame the conservative base by crossing party lines to vote for cap-and-trade legislation.

So, for now, the jury’s still out on LeMieux.

*You can follow TWI on Twitter and Facebook. *

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