Forty-six House Republicans, including almost all of the GOP members of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, joined Democrats late Thursday to defeat a bill amendment that would have prevented the Department of Defense from analyzing and addressing climate change.
Introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the amendment would have blocked a provision in the current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that requires a study into the 20-year impacts of climate change on the military. The amendment also would have removed language from the NDAA that recognizes climate change as a “direct threat” to the national security of the United States.
The House voted 185–234 against the amendment. No Democrat voted to support it, and Rep. Peter King (NY) was the only Republican member of the House Climate Solutions Caucus to vote in favor of the amendment. Rep. Rodney Davis (IL), another Republican member of the caucus, did not vote.
The other 22 Republican members of the caucus, including Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), joined their Democratic colleagues to help defeat the amendment. Issa has a 4 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and is viewed by many climate activists as a long-time climate science denier.
The Climate Solutions Caucus was formed in early 2016 to bring Republicans and Democrats together to advance meaningful climate change legislation. The caucus uses what has come to be known as the “Noah’s Ark approach” to membership: No one can join without a member of the other party coming on board at the same time.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), co-chairman of the climate caucus, described the vote as proof that there is a “bipartisan majority in Congress of members who understand that climate change is a real threat to our communities, our economy, and our military readiness.”
“I hope my House colleagues were watching closely; denying climate change is no longer a winning strategy,” Deutch said in a statement.
Thursday’s vote not only backed climate action, it also backed the military. For more than a decade, the Department of Defense has warned that climate change poses a critical national security threat. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has stated that climate change is real and a threat to the military’s assets and activities — a position at odds with the views of President Donald Trump and many in his administration. Mattis also believes the U.S. military needs to cut its dependence on fossil fuels and use renewable energy where it makes sense.
“The Pentagon has long warned that climate change is a grave threat to our national security, and the Secretary of Defense says climate change threatens our military readiness today,” Sara Jordan, legislative representative for the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement issued Thursday in response to the defeat of the amendment. “Now even a bipartisan majority of Congress agrees — showing just how out of step President Trump and his polluter allies are in their efforts to put polluter profits ahead of our health and national security.”
In late June, the House Armed Services Committee, in a bipartisan vote, passed an amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), to the annual defense authorization bill that directs the Defense Department to assess the vulnerabilities of the 10 bases in each service most threatened by the effects of climate change. Perry’s amendment would have undercut Langevin’s amendment and other policies at the Defense Department to account for climate change.
During a House floor debate on Thursday, Perry said he introduced the amendment because climate change should not be a priority for military leaders and that lawmakers should not tell the military on what matters to focus. “Literally litanies of other federal agencies deal with environmental issues including climate change,” Perry said.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a member of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, spoke out against her fellow Republican’s amendment. “We would be remiss in our efforts to protect our national security to not fully account for the risk climate change poses to our bases, our readiness, and to the fulfillment of our armed forces’ mission,” Stefanik said on the House floor.
In her remarks, Stefanik was echoing the statements made by Richard Spencer, Trump’s Navy secretary nominee, to a Senate committee on Tuesday. Spencer said climate change represents a real threat to the military, Politico reported. “The Navy, from my briefings to date, is totally aware of rising water issues, storm issues, etc.,” he said.
In a statement released Thursday, the American Security Project, a nonpartisan national security educational group, commended the House for striking down Perry’s amendment. “The American Security Project strongly supports addressing climate change as a national security priority. The science around climate change is strong enough to take action,” the group said.
This article has been updated to include comments of Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), co-chairman of the House Climate Solutions Caucus.