IHS Chemical Week


Scott Brown: Blank Slate?

11:58 AM MST | January 21, 2010 | By VINCENT VALK

The big political news in the U.S. this week is the victory of Republican Scott Brown in a special election for a Senate seat in Massachusetts. In a particularly bad twist for Democrats, Brown not only won the seat formerly occupied by liberal icon Ted Kennedy, but he may block the passage of health care reform.

Why? He's the 41st senator. To those of you outside the States, that may sound trivial, but due to the ever-present threat of the filibuster, it is not. Brown's role, clearly, will be pivotal. And while most of the coverage so far has focused on health care legislation, his status had me wondering about Brown's positions on other issues.

On climate change, the New York Times calls Brown a 'blank slate.' While he voted for many environmental measures during his four years in the Massachusetts State Senate, his record is not perfect, and he did not sponsor or draft any bills. His website expresses vague support for "common sense environmental policy," but explicitly opposes a federal cap-and-trade system.

Indeed, 'blank slate' may best describe Brown's positions on many issues. He does not seem to advocate any specific policy proposals on his site. Project VoteSmart, which lists some of his key State Senate votes, lists only six votes related to business issues. Of those, only one, a bill to allocate funding for life science research, is of potential interest to the chemical industry. Brown voted against the bill.

The very fact of Brown's Republicanism obviously changes the dynamic of the Senate, though he may well be the most liberal Republican in the chamber (if only because he will need to get reelected in a heavily Democratic state). But projecting Brown's votes appears to be a difficult exercise.

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