Why Sen. Landrieu might be pretty pumped about Sen. Baucus's nomination to the ambassadorship to China

It’s no secret that Sen. Mary Landrieu and a handful of other red-state Democrats are feeling rather nervous about the impact ObamaCare is going to have on their 2014 reelection races and, taken together, the partisan fate of the U.S. Senate. Landrieu has already released her first ad of the 2014 cycle, and it was all about how she personally challenged the president on what has since been dubbed Politifact’s Lie of the Year.

I’m sure her team would love another major issue important to Louisianans on which they can tout her legislative credentials — which is why the news that Sen. Max Baucus might soon be moving on to fill the position of American ambassador to China could potentially be quite a boon for her. Baucus’s departure will mean that the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee is wide open — a position that his fellow Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden, currently the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has reportedly been vying for for years.

Wyden, as I have frequently lamented, is totally cool with slow-walking the heck out of allowing for the freer international trade of natural gas exports that would help the United States to take further economic advantage of the domestic shale boom — and several of those pending-approval export facilities just so happen to be in none other than Louisiana, Landrieu’s home state. The Energy Committee chairmanship would likely pass on to her, giving her the chance to hammer home on natural gas exports, offshore drilling royalties, and all manner of energy-related issues important to the Gulf State. So posits Keith Johnson at Foreign Policy:

With Baucus’s likely departure for Beijing, the Senate finance chair will come open, and due to looming retirements, seems poised to fall to Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who currently chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Aides say Wyden has wanted the job for years.

And that would open the way for Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to take over at the Energy Committee; the No. 2 Democrat on the committee, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, is retiring.

Unlike most Democrats, Landrieu unabashedly favors tapping U.S. oil and gas resources; Louisiana is at the epicenter of offshore oil and gas development, shale gas plays, and refineries.

Would the new Senate leadership position (if it does indeed happen) really help her out that much, though? National Journal argues that this is bad news for her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy, but I’m not quite convinced it’s that big a deal; for one thing, Cassidy will undoubtedly be talking up more or less the same pro-energy positions in his own campaign, minus the ever-present ObamaCare albatross; and for another, Kim Strassel over at the WSJ argues that Landrieu doesn’t have nearly as much as of a leg to stand on with energy issues as you might think:

Behind the scenes, however, Ms. Landrieu has been working just as hard to make sure she’s irrelevant. Through the auspices of JAZZ PAC, her leadership political action committee, she has from 2006 to 2012 contributed some $380,000 to re-elect some of the most ardent Senate opponents of the oil and gas industry. One result is a bloc of liberal members who easily cancel out Ms. Landrieu’s votes and guarantee the defeat of legislation designed to help Louisiana.

This data, compiled from public records, come courtesy of a new nonprofit, Keep Louisiana Working, which was formed earlier this year to take a hard look at political incumbents and whether their actions help or hurt the local economy. “We were stunned to see the amount of money that energy companies contributed to JAZZ PAC that ended up going right out the backdoor to help finance the campaigns of politicians who represent the liberal, anti-energy industry sector wing of the Democrat Party,” says Emily Cornell, the nonprofit’s executive director. “There’s a saying, ‘if you want to know someone’s priorities, look at how they spend their money.'”

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David Strom 7:01 PM on June 06, 2023