GOP plans to use Biden action on climate against House Democrats from energy states

NRCC looks to build on effort they say won back seats in 2020

Attack ads by the National Republican Congressional Committee that focused on Joe Biden's climate policies may have helped defeat Democratic Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn in November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Attack ads by the National Republican Congressional Committee that focused on Joe Biden's climate policies may have helped defeat Democratic Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn in November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 27, 2021 at 7:30am

Republicans seeking to win back the House in 2022 see an opportunity in a series of executive actions President Joe Biden is launching Wednesday to signal his administration’s commitment to tackling climate change. 

“You don’t need a crystal ball to see that Joe Biden’s anti-energy, job-killing agenda is a big problem for vulnerable Democrats — it cost House Democrats seats last cycle and it will cost them even more this cycle,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said in a statement.

The committee circulated a memo Wednesday, obtained first by CQ Roll Call, that referenced polling from the 2020 cycle in unspecified “battleground” districts where voters indicated they would be less likely to support Democrats after hearing that they “supported the Green New Deal,” “ had repeatedly voted against the oil and gas industry” or “voted to allow future presidents to ban fracking.”

The NRCC planned attack emails aimed at Democrats it hopes to unseat in 2022 and has called out some members in emails last week for staying “silent” on Biden’s energy policies. Those missives referenced Biden rescinding a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office. They also referenced his “fracking ban.”

Biden is expected to impose a halt on new coal, oil and natural gas leases on federal land and in federal water. 

The majority of fracking takes place in private land, and Biden has faced criticism from progressive Democrats who say his early actions have not gone far enough to address the practice. 

The move nevertheless revived a debate that Republicans think hurt Democrats in districts that depend on oil and gas jobs in November. 

The NRCC ran numerous ads in the 2020 cycle tying moderate Democrats to Biden’s promises to combat climate change, including Reps. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma’s 5th District and Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico’s 2nd, both of whom lost to GOP challengers. 

The perception that Biden would eliminate oil and gas jobs also contributed to one of his bigger gaffes during the 2020 presidential debates, when he said he would transition from the oil and gas industry, and Trump replied, “Will you remember that, Texas?”

Democrats counter that combating climate change also creates jobs. A study released in April by E2, a nonpartisan research group affiliated with the Natural Resources Defense Council, found there were far more jobs in low-carbon energy sectors than fossil fuel firms.

Nearly 3.4 million Americans, about three times the number working in fossil fuels, worked in solar or wind energy, energy efficiency, low-emission vehicles or other sectors, the authors said.

Benjamin J. Hulac contributed to this report.