Neil ChatterjeeHelping Mitch McConnell make coal a burning issue for the White House.
Neil Chatterjee is the senior energy advisor for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. (Chet Sussli)
It is a Tuesday afternoon in June, and over lunch in the Senate Dining Room, Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is telling me about the time he wrote a high school paper about his boss. McConnell had just swept into his second term in the upper chamber and was already being talked about in conservative circles as a rising star in Washington. Chatterjee, who's from Kentucky, recalls painstakingly researching the lawmaker's life and career, and coming to admire him for fighting for the people of his state.
He says he knew then that, one day, he wanted to work beside McConnell. "I've told him about it, and he wants to see the paper," Chatterjee says with a smile. "He wants to know what kind of grade I got."
Today, Chatterjee, 38, consults on key decisions the majority leader's office makes on energy, environment, natural resources, agriculture, transportation, and commodity futures policy. He has also become Mc-Connell's right-hand man in the fight against what Republicans scathingly call President Obama's "War on Coal"—a battle that is heating up as the administration gets closer to finalizing limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, a move widely expected to trigger coal-plant shutdowns. McConnell has been working to take down Obama's environmental regulations for years, but when he became the majority leader at the start of 2015, he secured a powerful platform to set the agenda and shape the debate. Now, Chatterjee is helping him use that perch to advance his goals.