GOP Rails Against Mercury & Toxic Pollution Rules, but "Life-Saving" Beats "Job-Killing"

Indy Slug via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Yesterday, six Senate Republicans joined with most of the Democrats to defeat a bill that would have blocked new federal rules limiting coal plants' mercury pollution and toxic emissions. Now, the GOP is working to "punish vulnerable" Dem senators in tight reelection battles who voted in favor of the pollution restrictions. Yes indeed, they're trotting out the old "job-killing" line yet again.

Here's the Hill: (emphasis mine)

GOP candidates gunning to take down Democrats including Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) quickly took aim at the lawmakers’ votes to maintain rules that Republicans call economically harmful.

Rep. Denny Rehberg’s (R-Mont.) campaign claimed Tester “today showed his support for the Obama Administration's job-killing agenda.” The campaign of John Brunner, the businessman who hopes to emerge as McCaskill’s general-election opponent, similarly pounced, claiming the rule will “severely harm” the economy of coal-dependent Missouri.

It's still pretty amazing to me that the GOP a) thinks that this is a winning strategy and that b) sometimes it is. We're talking about mercury and toxic pollution here, after all: scary stuff that actually kills people. And it's visceral; voters typically don't much like the idea of inhaling toxic fumes.

But, finally, you get the sense that the limits of the 'job-killing agenda' rhetoric are being tested here: Even the least competent Democrats should be able to parry against this thrust.

Even if forcing power plants to pollute less did reduce jobs (it's not clear it does, at all), how far are people willing to go to preserve jobs that kill people? Mitt Romney wouldn't have bought the line, back when he was governor:

Now, it might be a testamant to the grand shittiness of the economy that many folks have seemed willing to swallow the GOP's broad application of the descriptor "job-killing" to every policy they don't like. But the logic propelling the charge reaches a breaking point—if a regulation calling for fences around nuclear waste storage or munitions dumps actually did turn out to be "job-killing," think people would suddenly oppose it?—as it has with the mercury rule.

If embattled Dems properly publicize the fact that they've just saved a lot of lives by upholding anti-pollution laws, bringing the words mercury and toxic pollution front and center, they win this one. Life-saving can still trump job-killing, even with the economy in the gutter.

Tags: Air Pollution | Coal

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