Tonight, Americans will be treated to a first-ever trio of Republican responses to President Obama’s State of the Union speech. And not one of them will have the slightest interest in tackling the looming global catastrophe of climate change.
It’s long been customary for the party that doesn’t occupy the White House to offer up a rebuttal to the President’s speech — a usually thankless task. But in 2011, frustration with the Republican establishment drove the Tea Party to tap Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for a separate SOTU response on their behalf. After that, a supplemental Tea Party rebuttal became something of a tradition: Herman Cain handled the duties in 2012, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took it on in 2013.
So this year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will be giving the official response, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) will be stumping for the Tea Party, and Rand Paul will be returning to give his thoughts because, well…
For those keeping score, three Republicans will deliver SOTU responses: McMorris Rodgers (official), Mike Lee (Tea Party), Rand Paul (YOLO)
— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) January 23, 2014
But before anyone starts crowing about the right’s ideological and intellectual diversity, note this: with no less than three separate speakers, the GOP still failed to gin up one candidate who hasn’t eagerly blocked, denigrated, and/or tried to roll back efforts to address climate change and America’s carbon emissions.
First off, both Paul and Rodgers are on record denying the threat. “We believe Al Gore deserves an ‘F’ in science and an ‘A’ in creative writing” was third on Rodgers’ 2008 list of the top ten reasons it’s good to be a Republican. As for Paul, he told a 2010 Rally for the Republicans that on climate change, scientists “are making up their facts to fit their conclusions. They’ve already caught them doing this.”
Mike Lee has managed to avoid saying anything quite that pointed, but he joined the other two in signing the “No Climate Tax” pledge. That’s a document cooked up by the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which commits its signatories to oppose any legislation “relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.” Since most solutions to climate change involve either raising the cost of pollution or spending money on investments, it effectively rules out nearly all meaningful responses to the problem.
The pledge served as a rallying point for organized efforts to kill climate change legislation, according to a report by American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop. AFP used the pledge to explicitly target the ultimately-doomed cap-and-trade bill of 2009. And as of July 2013, the entire House Republican leadership, a third of all U.S. representatives, and a quarter of all U.S. senators had signed it.
In the House of Representatives, Rodgers voted against the cap-and-trade law, and voted for the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 — which would have amended the Clean Air Act to expressly forbid any regulations aimed at addressing climate change. In 2009, she also cosponsored the ill-fated H.R. 391, which would’ve rewritten the Clean Air Act to essentially the same effect.
Meanwhile, Lee and Paul have both signed the “Contract from America,” which includes a pledge to reject cap-and-trade and to stop “costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.” They both joined up as cosponsors for the Senate’s equivalent to the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 — which ultimately died in that chamber — as well as S.228, which was also dedicated to yanking all greenhouse gases out of the regulatory purview.
Just for good measure, Rand Paul also went on record dismissing the need to regulate mountaintop removal coal mining, he spearheaded an attempt to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of cross-state air pollution, and he called the Obama Administration “un-American” for putting pressure on BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
Instead of ideas to reduce carbon pollution, those who tune in are likely to hear more inventive ways of avoiding the problem — assuming climate change gets mentioned at all. Sen. Paul’s Tea Party response in 2013 did not mention energy or the environment at all.