Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Congressional Inaction on Climate and Energy Legislation in 2013 and Forecasts for 2014

While President Obama has been using his executive powers to move forward on efforts to address climate change, his legislative agenda was stymied by Republicans last year. In 2013 Congress set a record for doing nothing and the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the GOP. The Republican's ongoing campaign of obstructionism extends far beyond energy and climate legislation and puts political posturing ahead of the national interest. Congress passed a total of 64 bills in 2013, that is less legislation than any Congress in modern American history.

"It's a lot of wasted time," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, told CNN. "[The absence of legislative action is] ridiculous... It's exhausting... It's been getting worse and worse every year. Exponentially. There are so many issues we could be dealing with, and we're so discouraged."

"I think we've been working less, to be honest with you," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said as he left the last Senate vote of the year. When asked about the increased hours in the Senate, he was quick to respond, "The number of hours doing nothing? Yes, absolutely."

In 2013 Republicans refused to pass popular bills like extending unemployment benefits. They also resisted any hint of legislative reforms to climate and energy policy. This position contradicts the will of Americans both Democrat and Republican. While House Republicans have staged farcical climate denial hearings, the American people in both political parties, accept the veracity of global warming and want the government to act.

The Republican controlled US House of Representatives voted for anti-environment positions a total of 109 times in 2013. These votes sought to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry, weaken the Clean Air Act, block or hinder federal carbon emissions regulations, cut clean energy and energy efficiency funding and block clean energy policies, and weaken the Clean Water Act and other regulatory efforts to improve water quality.

President Obama's efforts to address climate change in 2013 has met with serious opposition from Republicans.  The GOP reacted negatively to his mandate to increase renewable energy for federal projects, his climate change resilience Executive Order in November and the environmental action agreement he signed with Nordic countries earlier in the year. 

The President's climate action plan also met with derision from the GOP. The issue that garnered the most negativity was the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) climate-change rules aimed at reigning in carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. In June 2014, the Obama administration is planning further emissions cuts which could close some coal plants.

Republicans plan to use these issues to support their candidates in the 2014 midterm elections, particularly in coal states. "I'm looking at data in competitive House races that shows that this sucker will be a loser," said Brock McCleary, a pollster for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "If in 2014, Obamacare will be the right jab, climate policy will be the left."

Jordan Davis, policy director of the National Republican Congressional Committee said, "the Obama administration is giving us a little bit of a gift by putting out these climate regulations so close to the election."

Republicans do not seem to care about climate change or air quality. Their official position is that the economy comes first. However, Obama and many Democrats argue that we can combat climate change, improve air quality, and grow the economy all at the same time. In the final analysis, it is hard to reasonably argue for carbon emissions that cause climate change and air pollution that causes Americans to get sick and die.

Republicans also oppose a carbon tax, despite the fact that it is widely recognized as the best way to decrease emissions. It is no secret that Republicans are in bed with fossil fuel companies, which is the most hated industry in America. The National Journal reports that the fossil fuel funded advocacy groups like the American Energy Alliance are going after those who support a carbon tax ahead of the 2014 midterms.

In the forthcoming midterms, the GOP strategy is to focus on Obama's policy impacts in coal states. Democrats will try to capitalize on the Republican's anti-science stance on climate change.

In the long run, the GOP position on climate change represents a problem for the party and for the nation. It would appear that Republicans have painted themselves into a corner on the issue.

They can either admit that they are wrong and change their position, or they can continue to bury their head in the sand and hope that voters won't notice. Sadly it is clear that they will continue with a policy position premised on climate denial.

Unless we see the Democrats take back the House and maintain their control of the Senate, the net result will be yet more Congressional inaction on much need energy and climate legislation.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

Related Articles
New Senate Climate Initiative in 2014
The US House of Representatives Anti-Environment Voting Record in 2013
House Republicans' Historic Anti-Environment Efforts in 2011 and 2012
Except for Republican Members of Congress Climate Deniers are a Dying Breed in the US
List of Climate Deniers in the US Congress
Gore on the Government Shutdown and Climate Change: Congress is Pathetic
Republicans Have Painted Themselves into a Corner on Climate Change
Republican Controlled Subcommittee on Energy to Hold Hearings on Climate Change
The Koch Brothers and the Government Shutdown

No comments: