On Wednesday, a handful of Republican Senators and Congressmen formed their own conservation caucus saying that they wanted to demonstrate that their party cares about the environment and even climate change. They call themselves the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Caucus and their priorities are reportedly public land access, water quality, and ocean pollution, but they want to accomplish these goals in ways that are “unlike their colleagues on the other side” who they argue “care so much about the environment that they are going to destroy the economy.”
Why This Matters: This move seems like a calculated effort to reposition Republicans who are worried about their re-election next year. They must be reading the tea leaves — er, poll numbers — and now realize that their party is out of step with key voting blocks — young people and suburban women — on environmental issues. But it is going to be hard to change the perception of their party as siding with the President on denying climate science, deregulating industry to allow more pollution, and defunding popular environmental programs. Senator Graham said that they “want to build on what President Trump talked about a couple of days ago.” That was telling — since all President Trump did in his White House environmental event was tell lies about the country’s “crystal clean” air and water and all the “clean energy” jobs he has created through deregulation. We will see if this caucus actually does anything to live up to its namesake.
What They Said. Republican members want to show they care — but there was little discussion of finding bi-partisan environmental solutions other than on national parks.
- “The Roosevelt Conservation Caucus will give a platform to effective and common-sense solutions to environmental and conservation issues that affect all Americans,” Senator Rob Portman (R–Ohio) said in a press release.
- “From a Republican point of view, I think we need to showcase that we care about conservation, we care about the environment, and we have innovative solutions that are not top-down regulatory solutions,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters.
- Graham also said that they want to show that “you can have a healthy environment and still fly a plane and eat a hamburger.”
- Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that her party has a “strong story when it comes to leadership over the decades on conservation. Unfortunately, as Republicans, we don’t talk about it enough. But it certainly is worth celebrating.”
- Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado heralded Republican environmental leadership and “telling the American people that the next generation will inherit and environment better than the one before.”
- Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) talked about energy affordability — “Somebody can’t worry about the energy efficiency of their home if they’re worried about where their next meal comes from. Somebody can’t worry about the standards or emissions of their automobile if they’re worried about going to work the next day,” he said,