WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Thursday approved legislation that would force the administration to remain in the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s plans to exit the pact.
The bill from Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) was passed largely along party lines by a vote of 231-190. Three Republicans broke ranks to support the measure: Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Elise Stefanik of New York and Vern Buchanan of Florida.
It marks the first major climate change bill passed in the House in nearly a decade. The chamber passed a sweeping cap-and-trade bill under the Obama administration in 2009 before that effort died in the Senate.
The partisan split in the House carried through to the North Carolina delegation, with all three Democratic members serving as co-sponsors of the measure and all eight Republicans voting “no.”
The Democrats – Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price – took to Twitter to explain their support of the measure.
Adams: “Combating the climate crisis is a moral imperative that compels us to act to ensure we live in and leave behind a healthier, safer and ore sustainable world for our children and grandchildren. #ClimateActionNow.”
Butterfield: We’re faced with a historic opportunity: to create a clean energy economy with good-paying jobs, cleaner air & a safer climate for future generations. I’m proud to support H.R. 9, the #ClimateActionNow Act, which blocks Trump from pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement.
Price: Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement is dangerously shortsighted-that’s why I’m supporting HR 9, the #ClimateActionNow Act to block Trump from implementing this decision.
Meanwhile, though they all voted “no,” North Carolina Republicans were largely silent in public regarding the vote. None of the eight issued formal press statements or social media comments on the legislation.
As Policy Watch reported previously, House Freedom Caucus chair and leading Trump supporter, Congressman Mark Meadows, raised some eyebrows during a House committee meeting last month when he indicated an openness to supporting climate change legislation.
Meadows told former Senator, Secretary of State and presidential candidate John Kerry that “I am one of the few people here that … is more predisposed perhaps to your message than most on my side of the aisle….I was a wind, solar and geothermal expert for an electric utility many years ago, back when the Department of Energy actually started. I have people on my staff that are looking at a carbon tax and a number of issues.”
Earlier this week, however, the publication Business Insider featured an article in which it listed Meadows among dozens of members of Congress who have “doubted or denied climate change” along with five other North Carolina lawmakers: Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Ted Budd, Rep. Virginia Foxx, Rep. David Rouzer and Rep. Mark Walker.
The vote today is largely a symbolic rebuke to Trump, who announced in 2017 that he’d withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris accord the Obama administration helped broker in 2015.
Trump said in a 2017 Rose Garden speech, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” He added, “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
But despite his declaration, Trump can’t formally withdraw from the deal until Nov. 4, 2020, which happens to be the day after the next U.S. presidential election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that climate change will be among her top priorities this Congress. She set up a new special committee on climate change earlier this year, putting Castor at the helm.
The “climate crisis is an existential threat of our generation, of our time, a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions,” Pelosi said at a press conference announcing Castor’s legislation. She called the bill “step one” on the issue.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have blasted the effort as a waste of time, given that it stands virtually no chance of passing the GOP-led Senate or winning Trump’s support.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in an interview earlier this week that he intended to oppose the measure “because the Paris accord was a bad deal.”
Gaetz, who has offered a GOP alternative to Democrats’ Green New Deal, said, “Just because I believe in the science of climate change and that we ought to have an approach to solve it doesn’t mean that we should enter into an agreement that requires the United States to plow in a bunch of upfront cash with very little ability to claw that back if other nations aren’t meeting carbon reduction goals.”
Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member. Rob Schofield contributed to this report.