McCain has missed every major environmental vote this Congress
John Byrne
Published: Monday May 12, 2008

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Wall Street Journal completely omits McCain voting record

"Sen. McCain's support of regulating global-warming gases like carbon dioxide -- the biggest environmental issue before Congress -- more closely resembles the stance of his Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton [than President Bush], though he disagrees with them on how such regulations should be structured," writes Monday's Wall Street Journal.

"Besides championing legislation to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions," the Journal adds, "Sen. McCain has opposed the administration's call to open parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, citing the refuge as a natural treasure on par with the Florida Everglades and the Grand Canyon in his home state of Arizona."

The Journal paints McCain as a maverick among Republican rank and file on environmental issues, in an article that is best misleading. While McCain has championed legislation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in his speeches, he hasn't voted for it. And while he's opposed drilling in the Arctic, he also refused to support a ban on drilling in a 2005 defense appropriations bill.

The article also fails to mention that McCain ranks last among the 535 members of the current Congress in a rating by the League of Conservation Voters.

McCain has missed every major environmental vote this Congress, according to an analysis by the League. His League lifetime record is just 24 percent. This compares with 86 percent for Obama and 86 percent for Clinton. Obama and Clinton ranked 67 and 73 percent in the League's most recent report.

"McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every single crucial environmental vote scored by the organization, posting a score lower than Members of Congress who were out for much of the year due to serious illnesses–and even lower than some who died during the term," a release from the Sierra Club noted in February.

"He's certainly better than Bush, and ... the average Republican senator" on environmental matters, but "dramatically worse than the average Republican governor," Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Journal Monday. "Pope said his organization might refrain from endorsing one presidential candidate over another this year because 'there is huge opportunity for all three of them still to grow.'"

Strangely, the Journal used this quote to claim that the Sierra Club's decision not to endorse anyone was instead "a sign of Sen. McCain's potential appeal to environmentally conscious voters."

McCain touts himself as being out the Republican lockstep on the issue of climate change. His record, however, is mixed -- and his current proposals and outspoken stance on climate change don't entirely mesh with his voting record.

In December 2005, McCain refused to block a provision to drill in Alaska's National Wildlife refuge, saying it wasn't appropriate to tack the measure onto a military spending bill in the time of war.

He's cast votes against tightening fuel efficiency standards. He's resisted requiring public electric power utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources.

He's also pushed aside Endangered Species Act protections that conflict with other priorities of his in Arizona, such as the construction of a university observatory.

On the plus side, he's worked to protect public lands in his home state.

In a February press release, Pope said: "We were appalled two weeks ago when John McCain was the only Senator who chose to skip a crucial vote on the future of clean energy in America-dooming the measure to fail by just a single vote. As it turns out, this was merely the most recent example of a clear pattern of missing the most important votes on energy and the environment--as his abysmal [League of Conservation Voters'] score clearly demonstrates."

McCain's defenders disagree.

"Look, he always balances what are the environmental implications of these enterprises and what are the economic benefits that could come from them," Doug Holtz-Eakin, a McCain policy advisor, told the Washington Post Monday. "That is, in general, an approach which may be harder to read than a flat ideological X or Y, but it's how he reads these things, it's how he evaluates these kinds of decisions."

"He stood up against the president of his own party, and the majority of members of his own party," remarked Democrat-cum-Independent Senator Joe Lieberman. "I think that makes him an environmental leader."