Republican climate hawk Rooney to retire

Source: By Timothy Cama, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 21, 2019

Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, the most outspoken climate change advocate in the House Republican caucus, said he will retire from Congress after just two terms.

The former construction executive and ambassador to the Holy See announced his decision Saturday on Fox News, one day after making waves for breaking with his party on the ongoing Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump, saying he was “shocked” by some of the recent revelations and did not rule out voting to impeach (Greenwire, Oct. 18).

“I came here to get the money for the Everglades projects that had been languishing for many years, and to try to get this offshore drilling ban passed to protect Florida,” Rooney, 65, told “America’s News HQ” host Leland Vittert, referring to the ban on drilling near Florida that had wide support among Democrats and Florida’s congressional delegation, but not the rest of the GOP.

“I’ve done what I came to do,” he said. “And I want to be a model for term limits. You know, I’m the guy that came up with the term limits bill that doesn’t require a constitutional amendment. People need to recognize that this is … public service, not public life.”

Rooney was first elected to the House in 2016 in a district on the Gulf of Mexico coast that is safely Republican, replacing Rep. Curt Clawson (R), who decided not to run for another term. He won the 2018 election by more than 24 percentage points.

He mostly supports Trump and the GOP. But he has broken with the party on numerous matters, most notably as a Republican sponsor of carbon tax bills including the “Stemming Warming and Augmenting Pay Act,” “Market Choice Act” and “Energy Innovation and Dividend Act.” He’s also a co-chairman of the House Climate Solutions Caucus.

Rooney has repeatedly argued that there is no inconsistency between conservative principles like economic choice and the free market, and fighting climate change, particularly for areas affected by climate like his coastal district.

“I have co-sponsored the ‘Market Choice Act’ because it is a reasonable and feasible solution that avoids a new tax and actually would reduce the burden currently borne by Americans at the gas pump by eliminating the federal gas tax,” he said last month, when he reintroduced that bill with colleagues.

Rooney frequently caught the ire of conservative groups for his carbon tax advocacy.

“The proposed carbon tax is a gas tax and a tax on your electric bill. Worse, it increases automatically year after year so the politicians can raise your taxes without ever having to vote,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said earlier this year of the “Energy Innovation and Dividend Act.”

“The tax will be hidden in the price of all goods and services,” Norquist said. “A hidden tax. A permanent tax. An uncontrolled tax that increases without end.”

The American Energy Alliance responded to Rooney’s introduction of that bill by sending him a yellow vest, a reference to the demonstrators in France protesting high fuel costs.

“A carbon tax like the one you introduced would not only inflict harm on consumers and the broader U.S. economy, it would foist additional burdens on state and local governments, all while failing to make any meaningful dent in the total emissions profile worldwide,” the group wrote to him.

Rooney was always outspoken on climate matters but took on more of a leading role when former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), previously a leading GOP climate advocate, left Congress earlier this year after losing his reelection bid.

Rooney has also bucked his party on Trump’s emergency declarations he signed to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, which Rooney joined Democrats in voting to overturn.

“I thought the idea was that you came and did your public service and left — you accomplished what you wanted to accomplish and left — and that’s what I want to be an example to do,” he said on Fox News. “And I’m also really tired of the intense partisanship that seems to stop us from solving the big questions that America needs solved.”

Rooney previously led Rooney Holdings, a major company with assets that include construction, and he still has an ownership stake in it.

The company’s projects have included the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Houston’s NRG Stadium and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. He disclosed a net worth of $22.6 million, making him one of the most wealthy members of Congress.

Rooney’s announcement opens up a safe GOP seat for the 2020 election and makes him the 21st House Republican to announce his or her intent to leave during this session of Congress.