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Climate: Bipartisan Momentum Grows in Congress

Members of Congress from both major parties are coming together to work for positive solutions.

Across the country, advocates are working with new urgency to advocate for bipartisan action to address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.

Key actions:

  • H.Res. 195, the Republican climate resolution, introduced.

  • The Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives working to advance legislation to tackle climate change, is growing.

  • A bipartisan group of senators successfully protected a regulation limiting methane gas released on public and tribal land.

There is new energy in Congress to take on climate change, even as the Trump administration’s efforts undermine years of work on the issue. Grassroots advocacy deserves much of the credit for this congressional shift.

Nearly three years ago, a group of New York constituents trained by FCNL helped persuade Rep. Chris Gibson to introduce a Republican resolution declaring that Congress needs to address human-caused climate change. Rep. Gibson has since retired, but new champions have stepped forward. As of early July, 22 representatives support the Republican climate resolution introduced by Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY) in March. The Climate Solutions Caucus has 48 members and is incubating bipartisan proposals to tackle climate change. Led by two Florida representatives, Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch, this group is sometimes called the “Noah’s Ark” caucus because members must join, two by two, with a political partner across the aisle.

Why has the climate change conversation changed so much in recent years, especially among Republicans?

For many members of Congress, however, their increased leadership is significantly due to persistent and respectful constituent advocacy.

Age and politics certainly play a role. Younger Republicans are more likely to support climate change legislation. The White House’s antagonism to climate change—through its proposals to cut Environmental Protection Agency and other climate funding, roll back environmental regulations, and withdraw the U.S. from the international Paris Climate Agreement—also motivate legislators who don’t want their party to be synonymous with these views.

For many members of Congress, however, their increased leadership is significantly due to persistent and respectful constituent advocacy.

In New Hampshire, FCNL General Committee member Bob Schultz worked for several years to build a relationship with his representative, Ann Kuster. He regularly corresponded with her legislative aide and, at a virtual town hall meeting, asked Rep. Kuster to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. In April, Rep. Kuster paired with Republican Mike Coffman (CO) to become a member.

Relationship-building also paid off for Lee Reinert and several other constituents of Rep. Ryan Costello (PA), who is a cosponsor of the Republican climate resolution. Costello spoke about climate policy at an FCNL-hosted congressional reception in February, primarily because Reinert and other Pennsylvania advocates would be on hand to support him. They have developed a connection with Rep. Costello through regular visits to his office.

Quakers at a climate march

Constituent encouragement is driving push-back against the Trump administration’s environmental policies. Congress hasn’t yet enacted the steep budget cuts for climate funding, renewable energy, and more that the administration is requesting. Republicans are joining with Democrats to criticize the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. And members are introducing legislation and voting for policies that address climate change.

In the House, bipartisan groups of legislators have introduced the Climate Solutions Commission Act (H.R. 2326) to develop economically viable ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the SUPER Act (H.R. 2858) to reduce pollutants such as black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons. In the Senate, three Republicans joined with Democrats to protect the Bureau of Land Management’s Natural Gas Waste rule, which limits industrial release of harmful methane gas on public and tribal land. (Eleven House Republicans also voted to preserve the rule.)

These efforts are just the beginning. The Trump administration will continue to work to roll back key public health, clean energy, and climate change programs, and there will be difficult votes ahead. Yet we continue to build up a cadre of congressional leaders who, with the backing of their constituents, are willing to speak out and take action for climate change solutions. Thanks to persistence and a commitment to finding the next step forward together, we remain optimistic about what we can accomplish on climate change this year.

Washington Newsletter Washington Newsletter: Persistence + Resistance 

July 2017

Today, much of this work is defensive as we advocate against attempts to gut environmental protections, ban refugees, cut funding for peacebuilding policies that prevent war, and destroy the safety net for those who fall through our country’s economic cracks. We are leading efforts to oppose Pentagon spending increases and tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country at the expense of the health and well-being of millions.