Wednesday, January 03, 2018

A Bunch of House Republicans Accept Warming.  Is It Real?

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) is a critic of President Trump’s climate views. (Credit: Tom Williams/CQPHO/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Back in 2016, the Sierra Club was in South Florida to get out the vote during Rep. Carlos Curbelo's race.  Curbelo, perhaps now the most vocal congressional Republican on climate change, was facing a challenge from a seasoned ex-lawmaker — the same one he'd ousted from office two years prior.

But the Sierra Club wasn't in town to support the moderate Republican who blames human activity for climbing temperatures.

Curbelo had kicked out a Democrat, Joe Garcia, and the environmental group wanted to help Garcia get his seat back.  Its members canvassed the South Florida district, an area vulnerable to sea-level rise and any number of climate calamities.

Despite this, Curbelo won (and with backing from another legacy green group, the Environmental Defense Action Fund).  Since then, he's emerged as a leading GOP critic of President Trump's climate policies as a member of the House Climate Solutions Caucus.

And still, that might not be enough to keep him in office — or even out of environmentalists' crosshairs — in an election year that some prognosticators say could yield a Democratic wave.

Environmental groups are at odds about how to treat a growing number of Republicans who are speaking out on climate change.  They're caught between wanting to encourage GOP movement on the issue and the sense that Democrats are reliable votes willing to go further, faster, on climate change.

"It's encouraging that there are a small but slowly growing number of Republicans that acknowledge climate change is real.  That's a pretty low bar, but we're glad there's a growing number of Republicans clearing it.  We will work with Republicans to develop legislation," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  "When they prove themselves to be reliable and courageous champions for the environment, then those candidates like Curbelo and others would have their shot at earning the Sierra Club's support."

In a heightened midterm election year, one of the biggest climate stories is how a subset of Republicans in competitive races will try to distance themselves from Trump.  The president's contrarian and misinformed views on climate change present a chance for many Republicans to seize on an issue that highlights their differences with a historically unpopular president.

How those Republicans act — and whether action meets oratory — on climate will be scrutinized by environmental groups and a new set of eco-right organizations and donors.  At the same time, those green organizations will similarly be watched for how they handle elections in swing districts that, with a little push, Democratic candidates who traditionally prove more reliable votes on climate change might win.

"There are many environmental and climate groups like the Citizens Climate Lobby and Friends Committee on National Legislation that want to see genuine progress on climate issues," Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said in an email.  "They are part of the solution.  It's unfortunate that some environmental groups are actually unregistered agents of the Democratic Party and put partisan interests over advancing sound environmental policy.  They are part of the problem."

At the center of this experiment is the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a 62-member group split evenly between Democrats and Republicans whose purpose and utility has divided the environmental community.

One opinion holds that these GOP lawmakers are swing-district opportunists looking to cloak themselves in climate-friendly rhetoric to ward off anti-Trump sentiments.  Critics contend those words are empty, with little policy or legislation coming from all the bluster.

Illustrating the vulnerability of these incumbents, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting all but three of the 28 Republicans running for re-election in an attempt to flip the seats blue.  The nonpartisan Cook Political Report labels eight of those races as toss-ups, seven as "lean Republican" and four as "likely Republican," while two of the open seats are "lean Democrat" and another is "likely Republican."

Read more at A Bunch of House Republicans Accept Warming.  Is It Real?

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