Congress passes a ‘climate action bill’ that the Senate will not even consider

Legislation would require the United States to meet international obligations reached in the Paris Agreement

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Climate Action Now Act by a 231-190 margin on Thursday. It’s the first climate bill to pass Congress in nearly a decade. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the bill would “go nowhere” and it’s unlikely to even receive a vote in that chamber.

The legislation would require the Trump administration to meet its international obligations under the Paris Agreement. The act also requires that the president “develop and submit to the appropriate congressional committees” a plan for the United States to achieve “an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025.”

The United States is not on track to meet that goal. 

Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, D-New Mexico, said the Climate Action Now Act is a bill that acts on the climate challenge by keeping the United States in the Paris Agreement. 

“New Mexico can be a leader in a renewable energy revolution. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement put the futures of our kids at risk. By passing this bill we’re saying that we are committed to working with the rest of the world to act on climate and securing a future of good paying jobs in a renewable energy economy,” Haaland said.

Haaland is vice chair of the Natural Resources Committee.

Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho Chunk, D-Kansas, tweeted: “I'm proud to join my colleagues to combat the climate crisis & protect our planet by passing the #ClimateActionNow Act. Together we can create a clean energy economy that provides good-paying jobs in KS, cleaner air for our children & a safer climate for future generations.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said Americans can see for themselves the impact of climate change and extreme weather events. "Yet Republicans are defending the Trump administration action to undercut and isolate the United States as the only country to withdraw from the climate accord."

However Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation, R-Oklahoma, proposed an amendment linking U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gases to those from Russia and China. Mullin voted no. As did Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, R-Oklahoma.

This House bill illustrates the challenge of governing in Washington. Environmental advocates say the Climate Action legislation did not go far enough. Yet Republicans in the Senate won’t even consider it. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, told Bloomberg News that "there is no harm in passing" the measure but lawmakers can't stop there. "The idea that we can just reintroduce 2009 policies is not reflective of action that is necessary for now in the world of today," she said, pitching her alternative, the Green New Deal.

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Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports

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