Will McCain Lead on Climate Issues?

September 14, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Now that primary season is over, Politico is reporting that environmentalists are hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) might return to the fold. After backing climate bills that proposed a cap-and-trade mechanism for reducing carbon emissions for years, he did an about-face on the issue after his 2008 presidential loss and hasn’t really been heard from since.

A lot of different theories were posited for McCain’s reversal, but enviros are hoping that the most important impetus went by the name of J.D. Hayworth, McCain’s right-wing primary challenger in Arizona, who McCain has now managed to handily dispatch:

“There’s something to be said for making sure he lived for another day,” said David Jenkins, government affairs director at Republicans for Environmental Protection. “He’s not going to do very much for the climate fight if he’s sitting at home and J.D. Hayworth is sitting in the Senate.” [...]

The day after McCain’s primary win, Washington Post blogger Stephen Stromberg poked fun at McCain by joking that he’d obtained a copy of the senator’s personal planner.

At the top: “Call Lindsey Graham. Explain that junk-mail filter trapped all those e-mails he sent me begging for help on climate change this year. Install junk-mail filter software so this excuse seems plausible.”

Unfortunately, the quips and wishful thinking of environmentalists quoted in the article sound like nothing more than just that. McCain’s own spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, flatly denies that he’ll do anything different, and even manages to insert a dig at Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) successful opposition to Yucca Mountain, a proposed site for a nuclear storage facility, in the process:

“Sen. McCain’s position remains the same: emphasizing the importance of nuclear power,” she said. “And obviously the key components of a real nuclear power program are reprocessing and storage, which this administration has failed to focus on, specifically by closing Yucca Mountain.”

A strong Republican voice on the issue could make a world of difference and even pull along a few other moderate senators. Just don’t count on McCain exercising his anytime soon.