Republicans Try to Buff Up Green Image With Environmental Caucus

Source: By Jennifer A Dlouhy, Bloomberg • Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“I’m tired of playing defense on the environment,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is spearheading the bicameral effort. “From a Republican point of view I think we need to showcase that we care about conservation, we care about the environment and we have innovative solutions that are not top-down regulatory solutions.”

The move comes as polls show growing voter concern about climate change and skepticism about Republicans’ approach to the phenomenon. Democrats also have intensified their focus on the issue, with 2020 hopefuls and House members offering aggressive plans for throttling the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.

The new caucus is named after former President Theodore Roosevelt, who drove a conservation agenda from the White House. Members said they expected the group to further an array of pro-conservation, pro-environment policies that generally encourage private sector innovation instead of federal regulation. That could include efforts to propel a new generation of emission-free nuclear power and carbon-capture technology as well as renewable energy sources, they said.

This will be “a platform that will shine a light on the strong leadership and conservation and environmental stewardship of the Republican conference and caucus,” said Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Environmental protection is a political vulnerability for President Donald Trump, who has questioned climate change science and championed efforts to ease Obama-era environmental regulations while cheering America’s clean air and water. Just 29% of voters in a Washington Post-ABC News telephone survey released Monday said they approved of the way Trump is handling climate change.

Graham said Trump should shift his approach — by acknowledging the climate change threat and focusing on ways to combat it.

“I would encourage the president to look at the science, admit that climate change is real and come up with solutions that do not destroy the economy,” Graham told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “We will win the solution debate, but the only way you’re going to win that debate is to admit that you’ve got a problem.”