Republican House of Representatives Put Profits over Public Health 191 Times and Counting
By Jackie Weidman
To no one’s surprise, the new Republican-led House of Representatives has proven to be the most anti-environmental in the history of Congress. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Howard Berman (D-CA) released “The Anti-Environment Record of the U.S. House of Representatives 112th Congress, 1st Session,” detailing the many recorded anti-environmental votes that members of the House took this year.
As of December 15, 2011, the House voted a record 191 times on bills or amendments that would undermine public health or environmental safeguards. The House Republicans averaged more than one anti-environmental vote for every day that the House was in session – a total of 165 days in 2011. These reckless proposals attempt to dismantle clean air and clean water safeguards, stop protection for some of our last wild places, and make it easier for big energy companies to drill, mine and pollute.
As the report describes, the Environmental Protection Agency was the target of 114 – or three of every five of these votes, while the Department of Interior and Department of Energy were targeted by 35 and 31 votes, respectively.
House Republicans voted to reduce the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly thirty cents for every dollar used for environmental protection. The Department of Energy’s investment in clean technologies — renewable energy and energy efficiency – was slashed by 35 percent in 2011. The House also proposed to cut funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which acquires new lands for recreation and wildlife protection, by 78 percent in 2012.
Rep. Waxman noted that there is huge disconnect between the House Republicans’ agenda and the views of the American people.
“In bill after bill, for one industry after another, the House has been voting to roll back environmental laws and endanger public. The Republican anti-environment agenda is completely out of touch with what the American public wants.”
Many Republican representatives also continue to vehemently deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and due to human use of fossil fuels. The report found more than a dozen Republican House members made public statements that question or reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) suggested that the cause of climate change “could just be a shift on the axis,” rather the increase in carbon dioxide pollution linked to climate change.
Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, who dismissed dire warnings of climate scientists, and asserted that the Earth
“will end only when God declares it is time to be over with. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”
This statement ironically ignores the many record setting floods in the United States in 2011, including the deluge after Hurricane Irene, Mississippi River overflows, and Upper Midwest flooding –disasters that caused over $1 billion each in damages.
Not only have House Republicans attempted to directly undermine environmental laws, they have multiple ways to do so. In late November and Early December, House Republicans unanimously supported three bills, including the REINS act, that make the issuance of new health safety rules more difficult, if not impossible. The bills would require agencies to use time-consuming quasi-judicial procedures to issue major rules, add over 60 new steps in the rulemaking process, and prevent the implementation of new safeguards without both House and Senate approval.
And the attacks haven’t stopped yet. Just after midnight on December 15, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee released their version of a bill to fund the Interior Department, Department of Energy, EPA, and related agencies for the rest of Fiscal Year 2012. This bill included a handful of nasty policy riders that reward Big Oil and polluters, as Think Progress detailed this morning. These riders include one to eliminate modern light bulb efficiency standards – signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Rep. Markey warns that “these votes are just a preview of coming attractions if the fossil fuel industries get their way and place more Republicans in Congress and the White House.” Rep. Berman asserts that along with others in Congress, he will continue “calling for renewed effort to protect public health and the environment,” and urges that this report should alert Americans to do the same.
— Jackie Weidman is a Special Assistant at the Center for American Progress.