Democrats appear stymied on a top priority: climate legislation

Source: By Elvina Nawaguna, Rollcall • Posted: Monday, July 22, 2019

Outside of passing Paris accord bill, new House majority has little to show

It’s been more than six months since Democrats assumed control of the House promising to take bold action on climate change. And what do they have to show for it?

Just one major bill directly addressing the issue has passed on the floor, a measure that would force the U.S. to honor its commitments in the Paris climate accord. A comprehensive climate change package has yet to emerge, and a bill reintroduced by the chairman of the main committee of jurisdiction over Clean Air Act issues hasn’t had a committee vote.

House Democrats have conducted dozens of hearings on climate change across several committees, including those that don’t traditionally involve themselves in environmental policy, such as Intelligence and Ways and Means. And they added provisions to address climate change in the 2019 spending bills they passed this year.

But even their most visible measure, the Green New Deal resolution sponsored by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, hasn’t received a committee vote and hasn’t resulted in legislation.

“In the euphoria of a successful election, everything looks possible,” said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, adding that legislation, for now, has taken a back seat to messaging.

“It turns out that a lot of what they were talking about was merely aspirational,” he said.

Roadblocks

Messaging is important, said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., but legislating requires passing measures that won’t die in the Republican-controlled Senate and will be signed by President Donald Trump, who rejects climate science.

Pallone said Democrats hope to move much of their climate policy action through an infrastructure bill dubbed the Lift America Act, for which they were hoping to get bipartisan support both in the House and the Senate.

“That’s the best vehicle to get some of these initiatives to actually be signed into law,” the New Jersey Democrat said.