Scott Brown Plays the Victim

Politics makes for strange … roleplaying. Yesterday I wrote that the League of Women Voters launched ads and a website blasting one Republican and one Democratic Senator each for voting to block the EPA from updating clean air safeguards to protect public health from carbon pollution.

Now, Scott Brown is crying victim, accusing the League of abandoning non-partisanship with these “phony attacks.” 

I have no idea what Scott Brown means by saying he’s going to “fight back.” But his message about these ads does make clear how twisted and faulty his logic is.

For example, the senator says “As a father, I would never do anything to put my two daughters or anyone else's children in harms [sic] way.” And that one of his most “solemn responsibilities” is to “protect children.”

And what is the Senator’s top priority when protecting kids? “By providing a favorable climate for businesses to grow and create jobs.”

Nice rationalization, sir! Look, we all want kids to be able to get jobs when they grow up. But surely we can agree that getting a job requires getting a good education, and getting a good education means that the kids actually have to be in school and capable of learning.

Yet the vote LWV is focused on would have blocked the EPA from reducing pollution that will make asthma worse, according to a report released by the National Association of School Nurses and other health groups, who provided this warning about votes to block the EPA:

Congress is literally talking about taking the breath away from millions of American children and adults. Because they have a disease that is very susceptible to pollution, Americans with asthma provide members of Congress with 24 million compelling reasons for the EPA to be allowed to proceed with needed updates to federal Clean Air Act standards.  By siding with polluters and against their constituents with asthma, Congress is ignoring the public health and financial implications of pollution-related illness.

How does asthma affect Senator Brown’s state of Massachusetts? According to the nurses’ report, over 130,000 Massachusetts kids have asthma and over 13,000 emergency room visits are needed yearly to treat kids struggling to breathe.

Senator Brown is deluding himself (and misleading his constituents) by claiming that his vote had nothing to do with kids’ health. Our nation’s leading health groups – American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians (to name a few among many) have unequivocally stated that proposals to block the EPA are bad for our health.

Anyway, back to Brown’s claims. After claiming that he’s protecting kids by siding with polluters, Brown explains that he’s also protecting small businesses:  

“Burdening our businesses with even more bureaucracy will kill jobs, and that is the last thing our economy can afford right now.”

But apparently small businesses don’t need protection from efforts to protect kids. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what John Arensemeyer – President of Small Business Majority – said in testimony about the exact EPA standards that Scott Brown voted to block

It should be noted that the EPA rules specifically exempt small businesses, so that there is virtually no cost offset to the tremendous innovation benefits and cost savings that environmental standards will generate.

Hmmm…so Brown’s claim that he was protecting small businesses doesn’t hold up.

Then Brown tries to emphasize his environmental credentials, saying “I do support a clean environment.” But did you know that Scott Brown voted for what my NRDC colleagues called the “Worst Environmental Bill ever”? On top of a 30% cut to EPA’s budget, it contained a smorgasboard of anti-environment and anti-health provisions, 19 specific ‘riders’ directing the EPA not to take action to protect public health from air and water pollution. If it had passed, Scott Brown would have been responsible for telling the EPA to STOP efforts to reduce air and water pollution that is dangerous to all of us, including kids.

Brown then ‘explains’ his rationale for casting the vote that has LWV so steamed: “What I do not support is giving unelected agencies like the EPA the power to bypass Congress and impose new regulatory burdens on American businesses.”

But that’s hardly a fair description of the vote. EPA is required by the Congressionally-passed Clean Air Act and the Supreme Court to protect public health. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that by passing the Clean Air Act, Congress itself gave EPA authority and responsibility to curb air pollutants, including carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, if they are dangerous to our health and welfare. There’s no by-passing Congress, or regulatory overreach as Brown would have us believe.

Furthermore, Brown is quite at odds with the vast majority of Americans on this point. According to polling by the Opinion Research Corporation, 77% of Americans believe that congress should let the EPA do its job, not block the EPA.

Why? Probably because Americans trust the experts at the EPA to make these decisions, not politicians in Congress who they know receive a lot of money from polluters. As another poll found: “69 percent of Americans – including 59 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Independents – think EPA scientists, not Congress, should decide what pollution limits are needed.”

Brown wraps his ‘case’ with a pejorative shot at LWV, referring to them as the “supposedly non-partisan group” that in his view “has brought us down into the gutter.” It's farcical to claim that this ad is partisan. LWV is slamming Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri with a similar ad. And I’m not sure the man who is asking for contributions to defend himself from the consequences of a vote against kids’ health needed any assistance getting into the gutter.

Bottom line: Senator Brown, you are acting like a politician who is willing to say anything to divert attention from the record regardless of the facts. Your vote to block EPA from protecting our health cannot be justified on the basis of protecting kids by promoting polluters, or on the basis of protecting small businesses or on the basis of EPA bypassing Congress.

Man up, Senator. When you cast a political vote favoring polluters over public health, it is fair game to call that out for condemnation. The only thing political here was your vote.