BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republicans have promised Bill Cassidy a seat on the Senate's energy committee if he defeats Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana's runoff election next month, potentially undercutting one of her main arguments for re-election.
Landrieu has repeatedly touted the importance of her seat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in her campaign for a fourth term representing a state with a robust oil and gas industry.
While she will no longer serve as the committee's chair in the GOP-led Senate in the next Congress, Landrieu has campaigned hard on her place as the committee's senior Democrat — and Cassidy's inability to get a seat on the panel as a freshman senator.
"The question is, do you want somebody on the committee or do you want a rookie that has no seniority and is likely to not even get on the committee," Landrieu said as she kicked off her runoff campaign.
But incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement released to The Associated Press that he will appoint Cassidy to the committee should Cassidy win his Dec. 6 runoff election against Landrieu.
"I'm confident Dr. Cassidy will use this position to succeed where Sen. Landrieu failed," McConnell said in a statement touting Cassidy's support for the Keystone XL pipeline and opposition to Obama administration efforts to place new restrictions on carbon emissions.
"Louisiana will have a senator that will use his clout to support energy jobs, not President (Barack) Obama," McConnell said.
Landrieu and Cassidy were forced into the December runoff when neither received more than 50 percent of the vote in the state's multi-candidate election.
As Louisiana's last Democratic statewide elected official, Landrieu has a difficult path to victory in a state that overwhelmingly backed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Fifty-eight percent of voters supported someone other than Landrieu in the primary.
Republican leaders are uniting behind Cassidy, a three-term congressman, while the national Democratic Party has decided against providing advertising support for Landrieu in the runoff.
Landrieu's position on the energy committee is a significant piece of her campaign narrative, along with her strong alliance with the oil and gas industry and her push for an expansion of drilling in the U.S.
Her campaign didn't comment on the McConnell announcement.
If elected, Cassidy's position on the committee would have limits. As a new senator, he would be low in the pecking order of panel members, and in the final two years of Obama's presidency, Cassidy and Louisiana's all-GOP congressional delegation would likely have little sway with the Democratic administration.
But Republicans have criticized Landrieu's chairmanship as ineffective for her energy-producing home state because she supports positions at odds with the Obama administration and the Senate's Democratic leadership.
Landrieu's support of the Keystone XL oil pipeline hasn't led to a Senate vote on advancing the long-delayed project. And her criticism of Obama's regulatory plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions hasn't altered the proposal, which calls for Louisiana to reduce its emissions from power plants by nearly 40 percent by 2030.
"Sen. Landrieu made much of her seat on the energy committee, but failed to use that seat to stand up to President Obama's assault on our energy economy," Cassidy said in a statement.
He said if elected he would use his committee position "to stand up to President Obama, to deliver a floor vote on the Keystone XL pipeline and to protect Louisiana's energy industry."
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.