The preponderance of conservative attention this year has quite understandably been focused on realizing the categorical imperative to defeat Barack Obama. But also important is the defeat of the president’s enablers in the United States Senate, that enough votes might be secured there to undo some of the damage they, together, have done. An opportunity to unseat one such enabler has emerged in an unlikely place — Pennsylvania — where first-term incumbent Bob Casey now finds himself in a fight he did not expect.
Pennsylvania has long been in danger of becoming a vestigial swing state, blushing red before settling in to a deep blue. But polls there are encouragingly tight, not just for Mitt Romney, who has closed to within five points in the Real Clear Politics averages, but for Casey’s Republican opponent, Tom Smith, who has erased double-digit deficits and now trails by as little as three points in some polls. Casey has allowed what many assumed would be a slam-dunk reelection to turn into a real contest, by underestimating both the resonance of Smith’s message and the poverty of his own record.
The case against Casey is simple: In his six years in the Senate since ousting Rick Santorum, he just hasn’t been very good — not on the issues that matter to conservatives, and not on the issues that matter to Pennsylvania. In a single term he has achieved the dubious milestone of sponsoring more than 300 bills, none of which has become law. Little wonder that Republican staffers have taken to calling him “Senator Zero.”
What Casey has done is become a reliable rubber stamp for the Obama-Reid agenda. Start with the Affordable Care Act. Casey has long claimed to be pro-life, and was elected in 2006 on that understanding. Yet he has also boasted that “no one in the Senate has worked harder” to pass Obamacare. He struck a concerned pose when the Obama administration used the object of his pride to force organizations, including Catholic ones, to cover abortion drugs. But beyond signing a feeble letter that is no doubt at this very moment reposing in a filing cabinet in Kathleen Sebelius’s office, Casey has not budged in his support for the president’s health-care plan.
Nor is this the only instance in which Casey’s conscience has proven conveniently plastic. Within months of coming to Washington, he voted for a Barbara Boxer amendment that provided funding to groups that provide abortion services abroad, overturning the long-standing Mexico City policy, which prevented such NGOs from receiving taxpayer dollars.
More recently, Senator Casey has turned his back on the Keystone State’s energy sector, which hovers precariously between resurgence and retreat.
In June, Casey voted against a bill to block a bundle of EPA rules known as Utility MACT, which stands for Maximum Achievable Control Technology, a fitting name for progressive job-killing regulations if ever there was one. Nationwide, MACT is expected to cost $9.2 billion, destroy 39,000 jobs, and result in 700,000 new hours of paperwork each year. In Pennsylvania, it has already caused five coal power plants to shutter, costing the Keystone State over 3,000 megawatts of electricity and hundreds of jobs while raising energy prices for Pennsylvanians. And its impact is only just starting to be felt; more than 20 other plants in the state could fall idle before all is said and done.