Bill shows chink in U.S. Republicans’ climate armor

Source: By David Morgan and Timothy Gardner, Reuters • Posted: Monday, July 23, 2018

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) – A decade of inaction by the U.S. Republican Party on climate legislation will end next week when one its own offers a carbon tax bill, which is sure to fail in the House of Representatives, but is notable for winning even a little Republican support.

Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, a member of the House tax committee, said he will unveil the bill on Monday.

The measure was expected to propose replacing the federal gasoline tax with a tax on businesses calculated by how much oil, coal and other fossil fuels they buy.

“When paired w/ regulation changes, infrastructure investment & the repeal of regressive taxes — like I’ll be proposing Monday — it can protect our environment & protect economic growth,” Curbelo said of his proposal on Twitter.

The Curbelo legislation marks a small but meaningful shift for his party on climate politics, driven in part by candidates in swing states where increasing hurricanes and floods make no distinction between Republicans and Democrats.

Many Republicans supported a climate bill 10 years ago, but it died in the Senate. Since then, Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have largely stood firm on two positions: cutting taxes and opposing climate legislation.

But Curbelo, who represents a Miami-area district, faces a tough re-election battle in a state that is confronting stronger storms and rising waters associated with climate change. He is a co-founder of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions caucus.

Democrat Hillary Clinton won Curbelo’s district in 2016 and it is a toss-up in the Nov. 6 midterm congressional elections, according to the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Conservative groups, including FreedomWorks, are saying they oppose Curbelo’s measure even before it is unveiled. “America is already leading the industrialized world in terms of reducing carbon emissions and is doing so in spite of government,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement.

House Republicans on Thursday easily approved a measure expressing the sense of the Congress that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.”

But six Republicans, including Curbelo, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mia Love of Utah, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also of Florida, voted against the measure.

No Republicans voted against a similar measure in 2016. (Reporting by David Morgan and Timothy Gardner Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Jonathan Oatis)