McCain's 50 Votes Against Clean Energy Legislation

A Constant Obstacle To Clean Energy Posted by Richard Thomason on September 27, 2017

At a previous democratic convention, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said Republican presidential nominee John McCain's congressional actions on clean energy and environmental protection were inconsistent with his campaign promises of environmental stewardship.

"John McCain voted 25 times against renewable and alternative energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind energy." 

After the speech, most news coverage relied on an AP FactCheck article disputing the general concept, while not actually refuting the vote tally. But closer scrutiny of his record reveals that he voted against sustainable legislation or said he would have done so more than 50 times, as listed below. 

As a long time clean-energy legislation activist, I have been tracking related Senate votes since the Clinton administration. McCain consistently has voted consistently against government support of solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy, ocean and any other clean energy, with the exception of being strongly for nuclear power. 

In this live chat, McCain explains his belief that clean energy, like solar and wind are ineffective against climate change. McCain has many times expressed his sincere belief that only nuclear power can reduce greenhouse gases.

McCain believes climate change is real, and he was the co-sponsor of McCain-Lieberman 2005, a significant piece of legislation that would have established the first caps on greenhouse gas emissions. He wants to invest $4 trillion in nuclear power and supports cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions, but only if it has enough nuclear funding.

No other Senator supports spending this much on one energy source. The Republican ticket has a record of being friendlier towards continuing oil and coal subsidies and is opposed to a cap-and-trade system if it were to take money from these industries.

McCain-Lieberman failed in part because of the strong support for nuclear. Fellow Republican Senator James Inhofe, a climate change skeptic, supports nuclear power, but even he voted against federal funding of nuclear power (see vote 34 below). This is also why McCain-Lieberman never made it to the Senate floor for a vote in 2007, despite the publicity. 

Boxer-Sanders, Kerry-Snowe and Warner-Lieberman, other climate change bills that didn't make it to a vote, also lost McCain's support because he felt they didn't have enough nuclear power subsidies in them. Environment Committee Chair Boxer increased nuclear funding considerably to get McCains vote on Warner-Lieberman, but she did not increase it enough apparently, and Warner-Lieberman never made it to the floor for a vote.

In this list of votes, as a reference point I include the votes of Senators Boxer and Inhofe for each example. Boxer is known as the most environmentally focused voice in the Senate while Inohofe's stance that "global warming is a giant hoax" is at the other end of the voting continuum. 

I noted party sponsorship of bills (D) or (R) to assess his bipartisanship. Two of the most common misconceptions about McCain's stance on clean energy are that he supports clean energy, and that he crosses the aisle. While it is indeed accurate that McCain does believe climate change is real, thus allying him in general with the Democrats and a few Republicans, his voting record shows that he does not support renewable energy to solve it, but relies on nuclear power alone. Surprisingly, he actually crosses the aisle less than even Inhofe.

Summary 
McCain voted with Boxer 1 out of 50 times -against signing the Kyoto protocol (vote 14). 
McCain voted with Inhofe 42 out of 44 times
 unless Inhofe voted with Boxer (see votes 34 and 35). 
McCain voted with Republicans unless they voted with Democrats  (see votes 9, 10, 12, 15,16 and 36). 

I will similarly review Senator Obama's voting record in a future post. 

1. '93 (D) Exempt clean energy from new Clinton/Gore BTU tax 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe not yet in congress - every Republican voted No 
McCain No
 
passed 55-43
 

2. '93 (D) Clinton/Gore BTU tax 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe not yet in congress - all but 2 Republicans voted No 
McCain No
 
passed 57-41 

3. '94 (D) Make R&D tax credit permanent 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe not yet in congress - all but 2 Republicans voted No 
McCain No
 
passed 57-41 

4. '94 (D) Clinton/Gore funding for advanced clean tech research 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe not yet in congress - all but 2 Republicans voted No 
McCain No
 
passed 59-40
 

5. '94 (D) Weaken EPA if it costs polluters 
Boxer No 
Inhofe not yet in congress - all but 3 Republicans voted Yes 
McCain Yes
 
passed 90-8
 

6. '94 (R) Let coal states fail Clean Water Act 
Boxer No 
Inhofe not yet in congress - most Republicans voted Yes 
McCain Yes 
failed 28-67 

7. '95 (R) Disregard ("table") requirement for nuclear waste cleanup 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
passed 57-40
 

8. '96 (D) Improve environmental standards for subsidy eligibility 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
passed 57-39
 

9. '96 (D) EPA cleanup of toxic sites 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
passed 81-19 (most Republicans voted with Boxer on this)
 

10. '96 (D) Fund home energy efficiency assistance 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
passed 77-23 (many Republicans voted with Boxer) 

11. '96 (R) Gut nuclear waste disposal laws 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes
 
passed 63-37
 

12. '96 (D) Discard McCain amendment to gut passenger rail 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
passed 82-17 (most Republicans voted against McCain) 

13. '97 (R) Stop funding cellulosic ethanol R&D 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
failed 30-69 

14. '97 (R) Don't sign Kyoto unless China etc agree
Boxer Yes
Inhofe Yes
McCain Yes
passed 95-0 

15. '98 (R) Cellulosic ethanol subsidy 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
passed 71-26 (most Republicans voted with Boxer)
 

16. '99 (R) Stop subsidising biogas development 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
failed 23-77 (most Republicans voted with Boxer)
 

17. '00 (R) Overide Clinton veto of unregulated nuclear disposal 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes
 
failed 64-35 (need 66 to overide veto) 

18. '01 (D) Tax credits for clean energy R&D 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
failed 46-54
 

19. '01 (R) Drill off Florida coast 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes
 
passed 67-33
 

20. '02 (R) Drop incentive for combined-cycle heat and power 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
failed 37-60
 

21. '02 (D) Require utilities buy 20% clean energy : 20% RPS 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
failed 29-70 2

22. '02 
(R)Reduce 20% RPS requirement 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
failed 40-58 

23. '02 
(R)Waive 20% RPS if utilities complain 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
failed 37-58
 

24. '02 (D) Weaken appliance efficiency requirement 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes 
passed 52-47 

25. '03 (D) Make Coal Companies clean up toxic sludge 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
failed 43-56
 

26. '03 (D) Restore funding for (levies) Army Corps of Engineers 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
passed 51-48
 

27. '03 (D) Increase fuel efficiency requirement 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
failed 32-65 

28. '05 (D) Increase clean energy R&D funding 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No 
passed 53-46 

29. '05 (R) Appoint Stephen L. Johnson to head EPA 
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Yes
 
passed 61-37 

30. '05 (D) Clean energy incentives 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
failed 47-53 

31. '05 (D) Require utilities buy some clean energy: RPS 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
passed 52-48 


32. '05 (D) Tax oil company windfall profits rebates to consumer 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
failed 35-64 

33. '05 (D) Tax oil companies windfall profits to fund clean energy 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
failed 41-65 

34. '05 (R) Cap and trade to fund nuclear (McCain-Lieberman
Boxer No 
Inhofe No 
McCain Yes
 
failed 38-60 

35. '05 (R) Let wind NIMBYs prevent wind development 
Boxer No 
Inhofe No 
McCain Yes 
failed 32-63 

36. '05 (R-D) Energy funding for both fossil and clean energy 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain No
 
passed 85-12 (McCain in tiny minority) 

37. '05 (D) Tax oil to fund energy efficiency assistance 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain No
 
failed 48-50 

38. '07 (D) Cloture vote tax incentives for clean energy 
Boxer Not present 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 
failed 57-36 

39. '07 (D) Cloture vote tax incentives for clean energy 
Boxer Not present 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present
 
passed 62-32
 

40. '07 (D) Tax incentives for clean energy 
Boxer Not present 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present
 
passed 65-27 


41. '07 (D) To expand liquid natural gas development 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present
 
failed 37-56 

42. '07 (R) Coal-to-liquids fuel subsidy (Inhofe)
Boxer No 
Inhofe Yes 
McCain Not present
 
failed 43-52
 

43. '07 (D) Ensure that only clean fuels be subsidized 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present
 
passed 58-34 

44. '07 (D) Include RPS in final energy bill 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 

passed 56-39 

45. '07 (D) Cloture to vote on bioenergy funding 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 
failed cloture 55-42 (cloture needs 60) 

46. '07 (D) Cloture to vote on 2007 Energy Bill including production tax credits 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 
failed 53-42 (cloture needs 60) 

47. '07 (D) Cloture 2007 Energy Bill including PTC 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present
failed by one vote* 59-41 (cloture needs 60) 

48. '07 (D) Weaker 2007 Energy Bill: CAFE 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 
passed 86-8 

49. '07 (D) Cloture to extend the PTC - solar and wind incentives 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 
failed 52-44 

50. '08 (D) Cloture to extend the PTC - solar and wind incentives 
Boxer Yes 
Inhofe No 
McCain Not present 
failed cloture 53-43

Because McCain told reporters that he would not have broken earlier Republican filibusters on these same votes (on taxing oil companies to fund renewables, and extending the production tax credits), I am assuming that his absences from the Senate on these last votes represent "no" votes, and his previous voting record indeed reflects that.

I have not included each of the 8 times the Democrats attempted to pass the production tax credit for renewable energy since taking a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, because in some of those 8 attempts to pass the PTC, Democrats have had to tack it onto multipurpose non-energy bills, muddying our view of his possible motivations for votes. 

However, even without these recent votes, it appears that Governor Schweitzer's claim about McCain's record was an understatement.