Why conservatives should oppose the renomination of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.
With all the attention being paid to the Presidential race, not much national press has been dedicated to some of the early Senate primaries. Three Republican Senate primaries have been held to date in states with solid Democratic incumbents: Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Republicans have seen a guaranteed incumbent victory in Mississippi, and are now moving on to the Indiana primary. This makes the Indiana Senate race the first election this year in which an incumbent Senator has a valid chance of losing his seat in the primary.
From a conservative point of view, the case against Senator Lugar is strong. First elected in 1976, Senator Lugar is one of the longest service members of Congress. This alone is enough to make the election competitive as there is a growing sentiment that term limits should be applied to members of Congress. However, Senator Lugar has numerous additional problems, including his history in the areas of debt and deficits, immigration, energy and the environment, and foreign aid.
For starters, although Senator Lugar opposed the Stimulus bill, supported the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan, and has repeatedly co-sponsored a balanced budget amendment, he has also voted for every increase in the debt ceiling prior to President Obama assuming office. This means that although he promoted the idea of a balanced budget amendment, he didn't seem very active in efforts to actually reduce the deficit. His support for the TARP program has also tarnished his economic credentials.
The supreme court decision on the Arizona immigration law will once again thrust the subject into the 2012 election cycle. More and more Americans are having difficulty accepting why a nation of ever increasing security measures for its citizens seems unconcerned with who is residing within the nation illegally, and a growing unemployment has removed the argument that more and more unskilled workers are needed throughout the nation.
Senator Lugar has repeatedly co-sponsored the DREAM Act. In 2006 he voted in favor of an immigration reform package to grant amnesty to large groups of people here illegally, and he recently voted in support of sanctuary city policies.
Perhaps the most daunting issue for Senator Lugar is his history relating to energy and the environment. Time and time again, Senator Lugar has expressed support for carbon capping schemes and expressed not only a willingness but a desire to force the US to abide by international carbon reduction committments. Although he voted against the cap-and-trade legislation of 2009, he has sponsored and co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation intended to tie international aid to a nation's willingness to abide by international climate standards. He has also called for the US to create a Western Hemisphere Energy Industry Group to enforce a carbon trading system, and to work within the UN framework to enforce climate standards on developing nations. Numerous times in recent years, he has noted the merits of a carbon capping scheme and the dangers of global warming.
Although he has supported drilling in ANWR and nuclear energy, he has also been a very strong supporter of ethanol subsidies and clean energy funding programs. This support has ranged from common sense measures to alter the tax code to provide equality between ethanol and oil pipeline manufacturing, to large scale loan guarantees intended to target programs that the private industry has deemed too risky.
In 2010, Senator Lugar released an energy plan that outlined his vision for energy independence in the future. The plan consisted of a 4% increase every year in the vehicle CAFE standards coupled with requirements for energy producers to use more and more alternative energy means to generate electricity.
Finally, Senator Lugar's history with international aid is causing him grief with conservatives. Just as in fighting climate change, Senator Lugar supports international committments and large scale US funding. He sees the distribution of food by the US as a mechanism to influence foreign policy and reward friendly nations. While not entirely unconservative, this viewpoint calls for an ever increasing funding stream to provide for programs such as PEPFAR, USAID, and numerous others.
While the idea of feeding the world's hungry is a worthwhile goal, the idea of continually excusing the debts of other nations while our own debt continually grows is simply not one that the American people are likely to continue to support. For this reason and the ones outlined above, it seems equally unlikely that the Republican base will continue to support Senator Lugar.