CLIMATE

Groups launch $2M ad campaign as Senate sprints to July floor debate

A coalition of environmental, liberal and union groups today launched a series of television ads blasting senators who supported a failed bid to block U.S. EPA climate regulations and praising others who opposed the effort.

The initial $2 million advertising campaign is the first from the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, VoteVets.org Action Fund and Service Employees International Union, in what they say will be an $11 million campaign aimed at prodding the Senate to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) expects to take an energy and climate bill to the floor in July, prior to confirmation debate on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, his spokesman Jim Manley said today. Manley declined to say when Reid is planning to roll out legislative language and said no decisions have been made about what a final package would include.

Ads launched today criticize Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for voting earlier this month to support a resolution from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would have blocked EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Senate voted 47-53 to reject the measure.

The ads depict an oil-slicked politician being pulled out of the ocean, and accuse the senators of being "showered" in campaign cash from Big Oil while opposing EPA regulations that would "hold polluters accountable." As cleanup workers try to wash the oil off the politician, the narrator says: "We're trying our best out here, but until he supports clean energy climate legislation, I don't think we can save him."

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Two separate ads praise Reid and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) for opposing the Murkowski measure. Those ads feature an Iraq war veteran who says his battalion helped protect oil supplies from insurgent attacks, but now he's helping to build wind farms across America. Reid and McCaskill, he says, are helping soldiers return home and find jobs by voting against the Murkowski resolution and "creating tens of thousands of clean energy jobs" across their states.

The groups are running the ads in the senators' home states for the next two weeks and will also launch Internet ads.

The ads come as Republicans intensify their criticism of efforts by the White House and Democrats to link the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to the need for energy and climate legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized President Obama for meeting with senators yesterday on energy and climate legislation, instead of focusing on the Gulf oil spill.

"The first thing we heard about this meeting is that the president said it was not a meeting about the oil spill," McConnell said on the Senate floor today.

"In other words, at a moment when the American people were hoping to hear about what the White House was doing to fix the oil leak in the Gulf, the president was using that moment to prepare the ground for yet another piece of legislation that would expand the reach of government -- and which would do absolutely nothing to solve the crisis at hand," McConnell added. "I think it's most people's view that the left-wing wish list can wait. Fixing this immediate problem should be the top priority right now."

But Democrats and the Obama administration insist that the two issues are intertwined and ought to be dealt with simultaneously.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the lead sponsors of a sweeping climate change bill, told reporters yesterday that the White House meeting involved "a lot of discussion on the oil spill, beginning with President Obama." He said there was "a strong feeling that this bill should be the legislative vehicle that responds to what was wrong and that enabled the horrific oil spill to occur in the Gulf."

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