Bipartisan caucus members reject Trump agenda, introduce bill to create climate panel

Climate bill draws support from both sides of the aisle.

Protesters call for greater funding for climate change research during the March for Science in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Protesters call for greater funding for climate change research during the March for Science in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz

A newly expanded, bipartisan group of House members is looking for ways to get around the Trump administration’s plans to dismantle climate programs and congressional attacks on climate science to enable the United States to continue cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Members of the House Climate Solutions Caucus introduced a bill that would establish a commission of 10 members to conduct a review of public policies and private actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The commission, with five members appointed by Democrats and five by Republicans, would make recommendations to the president, Congress and the states, and base its emissions reductions goals on the latest scientific findings regarding what is needed to avoid serious health and environmental consequences.

The bill, the Climate Solutions Commission Act, was introduced by Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), John Faso (R-NY), and 10 other members of the caucus. This is the second time the bill has been introduced, after failing to pass in 2016.

“When the Climate Solutions Caucus was re-formed in January, the hope was that they would raise the visibility of the climate issue and work together on legislation that starts the ball rolling toward solving this immense problem,” Mark Reynolds, executive director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, said in a statement issued Thursday. “With the introduction of this bill, we see Republicans and Democrats finding common ground and doing just that.”

Two lawmakers from Florida — Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and Carlos Curbelo, a Republican — formed the Climate Solutions Caucus in February 2016. Florida is widely viewed by experts as a state that will be hit hardest by an intensification of climate change.

“In South Florida, king tides regularly flood low-lying communities like Miami Beach and Key West, and the saltwater creep threatens the freshwater supplied by the Everglades to over seven million Americans,” the two Florida lawmakers wrote in a joint op-ed last year.

A hotel guest is escorted through a flooded street in Miami Beach on September 30, 2015. CREDIT: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
A hotel guest is escorted through a flooded street in Miami Beach on September 30, 2015. CREDIT: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

The caucus — which adds members in bipartisan pairs — gradually grew in 2016, but its membership has been rapidly expanding in 2017. Since the start of the year, the caucus has more than doubled its membership to 38, with equal numbers from both sides of the aisle.

But not every new caucus member has a strong record on addressing climate change. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) joined the bipartisan caucus, even though he has denied the science behind climate change in the past. A spokesperson for Issa told ThinkProgress last month that “the congressman accepts the scientific consensus on climate change.” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) is another new caucus member who has made eyebrow-raising comments on climate change. Davis said in a radio interview, for example, that “global warming has stopped 16 years ago,” although the Illinois lawmaker claims climate activists have misused the quote.

The introduction of the climate solutions commission bill — co-sponsored by six Republicans and six Democrats — comes as the Trump administration is aiming to radically reshape the nation’s environmental regulatory framework, including attempts to halt efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The nation’s top environmental cop, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, has prioritized helping energy and other polluting industries escape federal regulatory oversight over ensuring companies comply with environmental laws.

Delaney, one of the new bill’s sponsors, told InsideClimate News that he can’t predict whether the legislation to create the commission will pass this year. But the bill has nearly twice as many co-sponsors this time, he said.

The commission would be required to release its recommendations within 18 months of the enactment of the legislation. The bill also directs the Government Accountability Office to study how economic growth could be maintained while attempting to develop a solution to reducing gas greenhouse gas emissions.

In a letter sent to President Donald Trump last week, 21 members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, including four Republican members, urged him to keep the United States in the Paris climate agreement.

Nearly 200 nations agreed to to make commitments to address the dangerous effects of climate change, the lawmakers said. Even China and India, who were signatories to the agreement, pronounced they were ready to transition to a low-carbon economy, they told Trump.

Former Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID), who co-founded the Partnership for Responsible Growth, emphasized that the United States will not be able to meet the climate change challenge unless Congress plays a leadership role. “We applaud the sponsors of this bill for taking a bipartisan step to find science-based solutions that will benefit both the planet and our economy,” Minnick said in a statement.