By MIKE STUART
CHARLESTON -- Sen. Robert Byrd, once a champion of working families and the coal industry, proved again just how far the senator has moved away from ordinary West Virginians and working families.
Byrd helped defeat a resolution that would have reigned in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and stop the agency from continued harm to the economy and jobs by limiting the release of greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, factories and cars.
Although Byrd claimed the vote for the resolution was a vote for overturning proven science, the resolution (the "Murkowski Resolution") sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was an attempt to reign in the EPA's extreme regulation of greenhouse gases under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.
Even Sen. Jay Rockefeller voted against the EPA and against the position of Byrd, though he waited until just hours before the vote to make his decision. Rockefeller clearly doesn't have much influence in the Senate given that his public opposition made little difference in the end and he was unable to convince Democrats to vote in favor of the Murkowski Resolution.
In the words of Rockefeller, "Any regulatory solution that creates more problems than it fixes, and causes more harm than good, in the real lives of real people, is no solution at all -- or at least not one I'll be any part of," Rockefeller said in a speech before the vote. "I don't want the EPA turning out the lights on America."
Rather than fighting for coal miners and jobs in Appalachia, Byrd has succumbed to the mighty influence of extremist special interest groups and environmentalist whackos in Washington. The Robert Byrd of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and even earlier in this decade would never have sided with the EPA and against working families. It begs the question of who is actually calling the shots in our esteemed senator's office?
Sadly, Byrd is a mere shadow of the legend that once walked the halls of the Capital as a legislative giant. For all West Virginians, the long demise of our once proud legislative giant is very painful to watch and even more painful to endure.
It is past time for a statewide discussion on the effectiveness and continued capability of Byrd. In these tough economic times, West Virginia cannot afford for any of its representatives in Washington to be anything other than active champions of West Virginia jobs.
Washington is filled with champions of the EPA. We need a senator that will once again champion us.
Stuart is president of the West Virginia Conservative Foundation and a candidate for chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.