Senator Heitkamp Sided With Her Party Over North Dakota

Senator Heidi Heitkamp JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

I’ve always thought that, when a politician casts a controversial vote, an explanation before that vote is cast is worth a lot more than a justification after the fact.

In this op/ed column Senator Heidi Heitkamp does a lot of justifying of her recent vote against overturning an Obama era emissions rule which the state’s oil industry says will kill jobs, which is opposed by Senator John Hoeven as well as  Rep. Kevin Cramer and Governor Doug Burgum, and which is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on behalf of the State of North Dakota.

Heitkamp says she heard from lots of people on both sides of the issue and voted the way she did because she felt the rule, which she does feel needs to be changed, should stand. She argues that when a rule is overturned by the Congressional Review Act the regulatory agency in question can’t issue a substantially similar rule without the approval of Congress.

I think Heitkamp changed her mind, and the reason she changed her mind was party loyalty. Which is not a savory sort of thing for Heitkamp who has built her moderate brand on top of defying the platform of her party, particularly in the area of energy regulation.

“If Congress had rescinded the rule, neither this administration nor any future administration would have been able to implement any regulations preventing the waste of methane going forward—with American taxpayers and tribes losing out as a result,” she writes.

This is false. The BLM could issue a new rule with the approval of Congress. What’s more, another agency could issue a rule, and in fact they probably should. After all, the BLM doesn’t have Clean Air Act authority to regulate air quality. The agency with that authority is the EPA.

But what Heitkamp is doing now isn’t an honest explanation of the reasoning behind her vote. It’s a justification for a vote she had to cast because her left-wing colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus needed her.

For weeks before this vote was cast Heitkamp had been telling people privately that she’d vote for repealing this rule. That’s what Congressman Kevin Cramer has told me. That’s what oil industry representatives have told me as well.

I believe them. I think Heitkamp changed her mind, and the reason she changed her mind was party loyalty.

Which is not a savory sort of thing for Heitkamp who has built her moderate brand on top of defying the platform of her party, particularly in the area of energy regulation.

Politically a vote on an obscure emissions rule that flies under the radar of most in the voting public isn’t a big deal. But Heitkamp demonstrating that, when push comes to shove, she’ll vote with her party over North Dakota’s interests on key policy?

That’s a big chink in Heitkamp’s political armor, and she knows it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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