Controversy erupts over Kerry’s Yucca votes
LAS VEGAS – As Democrats signaled strong opposition to a plan to bury the nation’s nuclear waste in Southern Nevada, the state’s Republicans criticized Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday as being disingenuous about his voting record on Yucca Mountain.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., issued a list of seven “pro-Yucca” votes that he said Kerry has taken since 1987, including one on a bill that included an infamous “Screw Nevada” provision limiting studies for a potential dump site to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. The provision was part of a massive $17.6 billion budget package.
“The people of Nevada have been led to believe that John Kerry is some sort of savior in our battle against the Yucca Mountain project,” Ensign said. “Kerry’s voting record shows just the opposite.”
Besides the so-called “Screw Nevada” amendment, Kerry voted in 1997 to table an amendment that would have required gubernatorial approval before any nuclear waste could be transported through a state, Ensign said.
“John Kerry is trying to take the moral high ground, and he cannot occupy that moral high ground because of his record,” Ensign said.
Democrats in the state, including Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley, have cited the Massachusetts senator’s record of voting against the plan to bury 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste at a site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, the party adopted a national platform that included a plank opposing Yucca Mountain, the strongest statement made by either party against the project. Kerry, who is set to be nominated as his party’s presidential candidate, also visited Nevada earlier this year and pledged Yucca Mountain will not be a repository if he wins in November.
Sean Smith, spokesman for the Kerry campaign in Nevada, said Republicans were “grasping at straws” and dismissed the votes as procedural.
“They are very afraid that this issue is going to cost them the state of Nevada and quite possibly the presidency, that they would resort to cherry-picking through a 16-year record of opposition,” Smith said.
Democrats have trumpeted Kerry’s votes against the project in 2000 and 2002, while pointing out that President Bush authorized the plan despite saying during his presidential campaign that he would use “sound science” to evaluate the project.
“They’re dead wrong on this issue. They need to attack their own president and get him to change his position,” Berkley said. “They have no standing to attack Kerry when their president has deliberately misled the people of Nevada just to get our vote in 2000.”