U.S. House passes climate bill in a rebuke to Trump

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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 U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) was passed largely along party lines by a vote of 231-190. The Michigan delegation was split on partisan lines, 7-7.

Rep. Debbie Dingell at the University of Michigan
Rep. Debbie Dingell, Flickr

“The time is now – not tomorrow, not next year – to address climate change. The Paris Agreement takes real steps to slow down our changing climate and ensures the United States stays a leader in addressing one of our most critical global threats,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). “… Hurricanes, fires, floods, including ones we’ve seen in Michigan this week are evidence of the necessity of action now.”

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 U.S. House in almost a decade. The chamber passed a sweeping cap-and-trade bill under the President Obama administration in 2009 before that effort died in the Senate.

Donald Trump | Gage Skidmore, Flickr

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.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) was an original co-sponsor of House Resolution 9 and said the vote “sent a message to the world that the President’s folly does not represent the vast majority of Americans who understand the danger of the climate crisis, who believe we all must act urgently to avoid disaster, and who realize the tremendous economic opportunity if America leads the change we need, instead of lagging.”

Andy Levin

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive directive joining 19 governors who voluntarily agreed to cut their state’s greenhouse gas emissions to levels consistent with the 2016 Paris Climate Accords.

U.S. 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.

U.S. 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 progressive Democrats’ Green New Deal resolution, 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
Michigan native Robin Bravender is the DC Bureau Chief for the Newsroom, a consortium of 10 nonprofit news publications, including the Michigan Advance. Previously, Robin was a reporter for Politico, E&E News and Thomson Reuters.

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