Democrats pass House bill to block Trump from exiting Paris climate deal

Democrats pass House bill to block Trump from exiting Paris climate deal
Democrats pass House bill to block Trump from exiting Paris climate deal  

WASHINGTON - It's not as bold as the Green New Deal but House Democrats on Thursday passed the most significant climate legislation in a decade: A bill that would prevent the Trump administration from exiting the international Paris Agreement aimed at global warming.

"It's time to end denial about (climate change) and start listening the facts. This is about science, science, science," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. said on the House floor Thursday before the vote. "An overwhelming number of Americans know this is a crisis, they know that human behavior has an impact on it and they want us to act."

The House passed the Climate Action Now Act 231-190 largely along party lines.

This is almost certainly as far as the bill will get.Senate Republicans, who have shown little willingness to break ranks with President Donald Trump on energy policy, are unlikely to take up the House bill.

The Climate Action Now bill would bar the administration from using federal funds to withdraw from the international treaty, which Trump called "onerous" and "harsh" during a Rose Garden news conference in 2017. Trump said then that America would withdraw from the agreement, but the U.S. can't officially do so until 2020 so the bill would prevent an exit.

In addition, the legislation would require the administration develop and submit to Congress a plan that meets its obligation under the Paris accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. That commitment calls on the U.S. to cut emissions warming the planet by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels.

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The measure is considerably less ambitious than the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., that calls for shifting completely from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the coming years and prescribes a broad social justice platform that includes free housing, medical coverage and higher education for all Americans.

Democratic House leaders are lukewarm to the Green New Deal, with some worried that its hard turn to the left could repel voters in 2020. Senate GOP leaders, betting that the Green New Deal would be unpopular with moderate voters, have sought to put Democrats on record regarding the proposal.

House Republicans tried to attach the Green New Deal to the House bill Wednesday as an effort to torpedo the Climate Action Now Act.

"Speaker Pelosi knows very likely that to have a vote on the Green New Deal could cost the Democrats the majority," Rep. John Hice, R-Ga., said during floor debate Wednesday. "So look, here's the deal. We Republicans are more than happy to go on record with our opposition to the Green New Deal. And we are more than happy to help our Democratic colleagues go on record for their support of (it)."

Though the Paris Agreement imposes no penalty for nations that miss the carbon emissions levels they set for themselves, they are required to monitor, report and periodically reassess those targets.

Trump has criticized the treaty for clamping down on U.S. fossil fuel production, particularly coal, while China and India are allowed to expand such output in the near future.

"The agreement doesn't eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States, and ships them to foreign countries," the president said when he announced the withdrawal in 2017. "This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States."

Trump has often touted his decision to leave the Paris Agreement as a move to boost the American economy, especially manufacturing and energy jobs. Democrats, environmental groups and some economists counter that the growth of green jobs would more than make up for jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry.

Given the lack of support in the Senate for the Climate Action Now bill, Republicans dismissed it as a pointless political effort and criticized it as bad policy.

It's "nothing more than another messaging bill against the president of the United States," Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said Wednesday during floor debate on the bill.

Climate change remains a high priority for Democratic voters and left-leaning independents, a new CNN poll that came out Tuesday finds.

More than eight in 10 respondents - 82% - said it was "very important" that a Democratic presidential candidate "supports taking aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change, according to the survey which has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.9 points.

No issue polled higher.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democrats pass House bill to block Trump from exiting Paris climate deal


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