House votes to stop US withdrawal from Paris climate deal

WASHINGTON (CN) – In a bid to stop President Donald Trump from pulling out of the landmark climate deal reached four years ago in Paris, Democrats voted overwhelmingly Thursday for a bill that Senate Republicans promise to torpedo.

H.R. 9, or the Climate Action Now bill, prohibits the Trump administration from using federal funds to withdraw from the international climate agreement. It would also force the White House to devise a plan that would place the United States back on track to lower greenhouse gas emissions between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels, a feature of the international treaty.

Sponsored by Representative Kathy Castor, the bill sailed through a 231-190 vote late this morning. Another of its features requires the president to remit his new plan to Congress within 120 days.

The last time the House considered climate-related legislation was in 2009 when it passed a carbon cap-and-trade bill. That legislation never made it to a vote in the Senate, however, because Democrats were unable to secure a single Republican co-sponsor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said H.R. 9 will meet the same fate.

“It doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” McConnell said Thursday ahead of the vote. “It will go nowhere in the Senate.”

The bill wouldn’t go much further in the White House, either, since President Trump has already said he would veto the legislation if it ever reached his desk.

Most Senate Republicans have come out strongly against the bill and have sided with President Trump’s position on the Paris agreement, citing it as ineffective, unfair to the United States and a threat to the nation’s economic strength.

In some case, other Republicans like Representative Andy Barr of Kentucky say they will support the bill only when certain conditions are met.

Barr clarified this view on the House floor Thursday, saying he would be willing to side with Democrats if the legislation featured language that said the act would not take effect until President Trump certified that the United States would not lose jobs to China if the bill was fully enacted.

Democrats meanwhile were quick to label such remarks disingenuous.

“I hoped my colleagues would want to engage in a constructive dialogue that addressed the devastating impacts storms and rising sea levels have,” Representative Joe Cunningham of South Carolina said.

Accusing Republicans of turning a “blind eye to science and facts,” Cunningham said the GOP had lost sight of its history of environmental consciousness.

“Teddy Roosevelt established 150 national forests and five national parks,” he said. “President Ronald Reagan signed into law 38 bills that added more than 10.6 million acres to our national wilderness preservation system. And all with the support of the Grand Old Party.”

Cunningham went on to describe the condition of a veteran’s hospital in a flood-prone area of Charleston, South Carolina.

He said surgeons had to be floated over to the facility on jon boats during last year’s hurricane season – one of the strongest on record.

“There are certain things that go beyond politics and impacts and touches every single one of us regardless of our ideologies,” Cunningham said.

Democrats found a silver lining in their bill’s expected defeat, noting that it will put every member of Congress on record about where they stand on addressing climate change.

As climate issues are already featuring in the policy platforms of Democratic candidates running in the 2020 election, today’s vote also makes clear that the party is taking action.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke made climate change a feature of the policy platform he unveiled Monday. O’Rourke’s plan proposes a $5 trillion investment in climate action over 10 years and would mandate that emissions are cut to net zero rates by 2050.

Thursday’s bill falls short of the more ambitious goals found in the Green New Deal, a resolution launched in February by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,

Though she said that reintroducing standards from 2009 would not address worsening climate problems, Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged there would be “no harm” in passing the bill.

The New York Democrat could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.