Environmentalists Target Democrats; Harry Reid Flips

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid
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Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and colleagues met with the leaders of big environmental groups last night, and while the famously hard-ass Nevadan left the meeting vowing to work with greens to protect the Clean Air Act against a Republican onslaught, the meeting had its tense moments, according to Politico.

The issue is that environmental groups have been airing attack ads against up-for-reelection Democrats who don't vote their way on key issues. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, for instance, was hit by a negative ad courtesy of the League of Conservation Voters after she voted to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency. Reid, who presides over a razor-thin senate majority, needs every Democratic vote he can get, and so the notion of fellow liberals taking out his teammates doesn't sit well.

The head of the Sierra Club stirred up trouble yesterday by tweeting: "What do u think about holding D's accountable for votes to gut Cl Air Act/keep oil subsidies?” He no doubt had in mind Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who voted with Republicans against nixing $21 billion in oil industry tax breaks. Reid wasn't happy. “I think whoever this is in the Sierra Club had better get his facts right,” he told reporters.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters post-meeting that the meeting focused on the Clean Air Act. "I think we all agreed in the room what a high priority it is for public health," Durbin said. "We've achieved quite a bit so far this year but we know there'll be further attacks from the House Republicans." When asked if the organizations' ads were brought up during Reid's meeting, Durbin said, "We had a wide range of discussions. That's all I have."

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