Feb. 7, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Alexander Breaks Ranks on Clean Air

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said the Paul proposal is not a serious bill and that it is expected to fail. The measure needs 51 votes to pass.

“If Republicans are going to put stunt, message votes on the floor, they should have their caucus in line,” the Democratic aide said.

The White House also opposes the Paul measure and threatened to veto the proposal Tuesday if it reaches the president’s desk.

Alexander, who has long had a reputation for being environmentally conscious and who famously drives an all-electric Nissan Leaf, waved off questions about whether energy issues were one reason he decided to leave leadership.

“I support the clean air rule because I live and breathe in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains, where the local Chamber of Commerce’s No. 1 objective is clean air,” he said. “We don’t want the Great Smoky Mountains to be called the Great Smoggy Mountains. We don’t want our infants to be sicker, and we want to get our Volkswagen [car manufacturers] suppliers, and they all are going to need a clean air permit. I have been introducing clean air regulation every year since I’ve been in the Senate.”

But looking at Alexander’s comments from September, it’s not hard to see that he had concerns about being able to push for issues that may not have been on the agenda for GOP leadership.

“Stepping down will liberate me to work for results on the issues I care the most about,” Alexander said at the time.

A GOP aide said that Alexander believes he can help the Senate as a whole, where partisanship has stalled most bills, to get back to legislating.

“Alexander thinks he can better help the Senate achieve results by spending his time working outside leadership with Senators from both parties,” the aide said.

The aide added, “Senators are here to get things done, so there’s a great pent-up energy that could be channeled into some truly bipartisan agreements.”

Other Republicans could also oppose the Paul proposal, particularly those from the Northeast, according to a Senate GOP aide, who said that the issue is more regional  than ideological.

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