Dems focus on climate change with emissions bill after New Deal defeat

WASHINGTON (CN) – A day after the Green New Deal was defeated in the Senate, House Democrats signaled Wednesday they will continue to prioritize action on climate change as Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a new bill aiming to keep the U.S. on track to meet emission standards laid out in the Paris climate accord.

During a press conference Wednesday, Pelosi said H.R. 9, or the Climate Action Now Act, was “step one” for the Democratic caucus to take climate change more seriously.

Nine additional resolutions addressing the impact of climate change – including cap and trade carbon pricing – were also introduced Wednesday, but unlike H.R. 9, they are not enforceable bills. A resolution is usually used to express the sentiment of lawmakers or to provide advice to other branches and does not have the force of law.

If passed, H.R. 9, however, would.

“The American people know that the climate crisis is an existential threat of our generation, of our time and a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions,” Pelosi said Wednesday before emphasizing that the bill would also help create jobs and advance America’s standing in the field of green technology.

The new legislation was introduced in the Democratic-controlled House just one day after Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a last-minute procedural vote on the Green New Deal resolution proposed by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, both Democrats.

McConnell’s vote was largely a political maneuver meant to push more establishment Democrats away from the ideas of their progressive colleagues and highlight divides in the party.

Most Democratic senators refused to vote, instead marking themselves as “present.” Only a handful of Democrats actually voted no on the resolution while the majority of them lamented McConnell’s vote as a “stunt.”

“I don’t play ball with bad-faith farces,” 2020 presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., tweeted ahead of Tuesday’s vote in the Senate.

H.R. 9 is facing an uphill battle. While it should clear the House, so long as Republicans control the Senate and the White House, it is unlikely to become law.

But the legislation signals many U.S. lawmakers still want to participate in the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump abruptly pulled out of in 2017.

“Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this act, the president shall develop and submit to the appropriate congressional committees and make available to the public, a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement,” the legislation states.

If the bill becomes law, the U.S. would also have to determine how it will achieve “economy-wide” cuts to greenhouse gas emissions at 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 levels by 2025, as it was established in the Paris accord.

The bill, sponsored by Florida Democratic Representative Kathy Castor, will face a series of markups by various committees in the House before it is brought to a floor vote. A vote is likely still weeks away.

In a statement Wednesday, Andrea McGimsey, senior director of Environment America, a federation of environmental advocates from all over the United States, applauded the bill.

“The United States is uniquely capable of development and implementing the solutions we need – transitioning to a society completely powered by clean energy, electrifying our cars and expanding mass transit and bike lines. We have the research universities and institutions, the renewable energy technology and most of all, the indomitable spirit of innovation that has powered America for more than 200 years,” McGimsey said. “All we need is the political will to make it happen.”

The White House did not immediately return request for comment Wednesday.