House Democrats defied party leadership Thursday with a sweeping climate bill that would include a hotly debated climate change and environmental protection amendment – despite concerns from several Democrats that the measure could harm their reelection chances.
The proposed legislation would require all federal agencies to use 20-year-old data on the health of the air, water and climate from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. That is opposed by conservatives, who say the aging data is flawed and insists the measure would create a “national environmental police.”
The so-called Climate Leadership Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), passed the House Science Committee by a 13-7 vote with three Democrats switching sides and nearly all Republicans opposing it.
Several Democrats were quick to defend the legislation and in particular the climate amendment that they said was about science, not politics.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said she “can’t control” the votes of Democrats. “If they choose to vote for it, I think it would be a good thing for them, and I would encourage my colleagues to join me, and I hope that they will join me,” she said.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said: “I don’t think what happens on this floor should dictate who is running for office” and mentioned many of the 200 freshman Democrats, who were elected with support from teachers and other professionals in the Democratic Party base. “You do not deny what the evidence clearly shows,” she said.
The White House and some Republicans said the climate amendment was a “bizarre” maneuver that would put politicians in the position of being able to decide how they should pay for their own constituents’ health care.
In a letter, the White House asked House members to withdraw the amendment, saying it “takes our country in a direction that is contrary to the responsibility and agenda of the entire Congress and demands that we not be a part of this process.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who is a Republican who has joined many Democrats in supporting the climate amendment, welcomed the letter.
“The letter from the White House is a clear signal to me that the administration understands the impacts this proposal has and that I have the trust of the entire Democratic Caucus to move forward with this bill and heeded that,” Curbelo said.
Several Democrats on the committee said they continued to support the amendment, but wanted to see Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) withdraw his proposal to protect the separation of church and state. Democrats said that Perlmutter’s amendment would violate the separation of church and state and was similar to “God-given” gun rights.
The amendment by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) was still at the committee’s table and several Democratic committee members said they expected to vote to kill it.
If Democrats in the House had voted to kill the amendment, their side would have had the required two-thirds majority to uphold the amendment as it is written.
The bill is supported by House Democrats who are facing possible retribution from conservative outside groups if they support the measure. They are leading the fight to protect students who face expulsion and other consequences from schools because of climate change and preserving protections for minority communities.
The bill now heads to the House Rules Committee, where it could be considered by the full House and passed before the chamber leaves for March 24 recess.