Busy Week of Climate Activity on Capitol Hill
For an issue that has only recently broken through on the national stage, climate change is getting a great deal of attention in both the Chambers of Congress. Here is a rundown of the highlights:
- Florida Republican Congressman, Matt Gaetz, unveiled his rebuttal to the Green New Deal, calling it the Green Real Deal. While he only has one cosponsor so far, his framework doesn’t set targets for drastically reducing GHG emissions and rather aims to bolster research, innovation, and modernization of our national electric grid. AOC’s response? “Where’s the courage? Where’s the audacity? Where’s the daring? None of it is there. Where’s the beef?”
- Representative Kathy Castor yesterday chaired the first hearing for the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, saying “Young people all over the world are rising to the occasion when it comes to solving the climate crisis. We need to rise with them.” According to Earther, the Republicans on the committee seemed “to largely view climate change not as a crisis but as a threat to fossil fuel production and deregulation.”
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee also advanced H.R 9, the Climate Action Now Act, a bill introduced by Representative Castor that would prevent President Trump from withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and also require the Trump administration to report on U.S. progress toward meeting its commitments under the agreement. Republicans immediately cried foul because the bill was moving so fast to a floor vote.
- In the Senate, Democratic Senators Jacky Rosen and Richard Blumenthal introduced a bill, called the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019, providing funding to address sexual harassment and discrimination in the science STEM fields in response to a study published last year that found 58 percent of women in those fields said they had been sexually harassed.
- Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Greener Air Standards Mean Our National Security, Environment, and Youth (GAS MONEY) Saved Act, legislation that would block efforts by Trump administration officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to roll back strong fuel economy emissions standards.
- And despite learning that he had continued lobbying beyond the time that he claimed to have stopped and that his former law partners were raking in millions from industry to lobby him, former fossil fuel lobbyist David Bernhardt’s nomination to be the next Secretary of Interior passed out of Committee, with Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voting in favor of him.
And one more thing, Republican Senator Joni Ernst piled on to the criticism of the President’s claim that noise from windmills can cause cancer by saying that if it were true, “I’d have church bell cancer.”
Why This Matters: Progress is being made, and we need to take a step back and see it. The fact that any Republicans are willing to openly disagree with the President on climate change and renewable energy is progress. So is the fact that the House is able to move legislation through and hold substantive hearings on climate change. But given who is in the White House and who controls the Senate, no real actions will be taken until after the 2020 election. Still, this will allow time to refine these proposals, hear from the public, and try to bring more Republicans into the fight for clean air, clean water, and (dare we say it) “real” climate action.