Congress

Paris climate bill will send a message and test Republicans

The vote fulfills a Democratic priority, and may reveal if GOP members will vote for a measure contradicting administration policy

Rep. Matt Gaetz, F-Fla., conducts a news conference at the House Triangle to unveil climate change legislation the Green Real Deal, on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. He said just because Earth is warming, and humans contributed, doesn't mean a "good deal" was reached in the Paris climate accord. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the House votes Thursday on legislation to stop President Donald Trump from pulling the nation out of the Paris climate agreement, debate in the chamber Wednesday centered on whether the deal would hurt or help the economy.

While the bill has nearly zero chance of passing in the Republican-held Senate and Trump has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk, it’s a legislative priority for House Democrats who say the administration does not take climate change seriously and has missed opportunities to boost energy industries that produce fewer carbon emissions like wind and solar power.

[On the campaign trail, climate change can no longer be ignored]

And as more Republicans embrace the reality of the human role in climate change and the need to act quickly to avert a planetary catastrophe, it will also reveal if any GOP lawmakers will vote for a measure that contradicts administration policy. Early indications are that it won’t draw many Republican yeas.

“I think that a lot of people in the country agree with us,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said in an interview. “We can continue to make progress getting toward a carbonless society by creating new jobs,” Dingell said. “I mean electric vehicles are an example and building that electrical infrastructure.”

She added, “I could go one by one of the things that we need to do so we can create jobs at the same time.”

Trump initiated exit from the Paris agreement in 2017 shortly after taking office, but under the terms of the deal, the U.S. cannot formally leave the pact until days after the 2020 presidential election. The bill would bar the White House from using federal funds to pull the U.S. out of the agreement and direct the president to create and update a plan every year to achieve the country’s obligations under the deal.

[Kerry, Hagel rip Trump’s climate policies, and battle Republicans on House panel]

Under the deal, reached in 2015, the U.S. agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, from a base of 2005 levels. In solidarity with nations still in the pact, 24 states have pledged to cut their emissions by those intervals, including three led by Republican governors.

However, many House Republicans still don’t back the Paris deal. They may have found a new interest in climate issues, but many opposed the bill because, they say, former President Barack Obama poorly negotiated the agreement and think Trump should have the right to negotiate a better deal.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said on the House floor Wednesday that members of Congress representing economies tied closely to the rise and fall of fossil fuel prices would be curious how climate regulation would affect their districts.

“We would probably like to see an evaluation of job losses that could occur,” Shimkus said. “I understand we need to get this climate debate off our chest.”

Two amendments to the bill that members will vote on Thursday, both from Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., aim to alleviate those concerns although each would likely kill the bill if adopted. One would require the Paris accords be submitted to the Senate and ratified like a treaty prior to entry; the other would eliminate the bill’s provision that would bar funding for pulling out of the agreement.

“Just because the Earth is warming and humans contribute doesn’t mean that President Obama got a good deal for the United States or the U.S. taxpayer,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. “If we were able to get global consensus on climate that was not unilaterally disarming the American economy or using the American taxpayer as a sucker, that would be a productive endeavor.”

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