Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor Thursday morning to push his Saving Coal Jobs Act toward passage, providing a quick case study in how the minority leader leverages his office to promote his home state during his re-election.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., objected to the bill, and McConnell was ultimately unsuccessful. But the back-and-forth set up a helpful contrast for McConnell and national Republicans.
McConnell's likely general election opponent next year, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, is reportedly scheduled to attend a fundraiser hosted by Reid. Coal could play a central role in the campaign debate next fall, especially in the most politically competitive parts of eastern Kentucky.
McConnell is facing competitive challenges in both the general and primary, as Louisville businessman Matt Bevin has worked to position himself to the right of McConnell. The bill McConnell pushed Thursday was designed in part to block the Environmental Protection Agency from placing new carbon emission regulations on coal-fired power plants.
The NRSC quickly distributed a press release about it. Spokeswoman Brook Hougesen stated that electing Grimes “would ensure that a sworn enemy of coal sets the national agenda instead of a Leader like Mitch McConnell who always puts Kentucky first.”
“I might just say we have a genuine emergency in Kentucky, a depression in Eastern Kentucky, as a result of what this administration has done and is about to further do this very week directed at the jobs and livelihood of my constituents,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
After McConnell requested unanimous consent for passage, Reid objected. “I know how important coal is to the state of Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana,” Reid said, before noting that he would work with McConnell to hold a vote at a later date.
The Grimes campaign responded swiftly as well, calling the bill “hollow” and McConnell's push for it self-serving.
“But his frantic, last minute attempt to cover his failed 30-year record comes far too late,” the release stated, citing coal job losses in Kentucky during McConnell’s five terms in the Senate.