The House Majority Took Historic Climate Action. Republicans Blanket No Vote is a Black Mark on Their Electoral Future
To: Interested Parties
From: Lori Lodes, Climate Power Executive Director & Pete Maysmith, LCV Victory Fund SVP of Campaigns
Re: The House Majority Took Historic Climate Action. Republicans Blanket No Vote is a Black Mark on Their Electoral Future
The House majority stood together in a pivotal moment to pass the most significant climate legislation in history, delivering on their promises to the voters who elected them. This historic moment occurred because moderate and progressive Democratic members of Congress spoke in a clear, consistent voice on the need for climate action: every step of the way. Democrats are the party of climate action.
Republicans, meanwhile, are climate contortionists. They create groups like the Conservative Climate Caucus and profess to see this as a generational problem. Yet, when the moment came to take meaningful action, every single House Republican voted no. Even those members who represent communities who are already paying a steep price from a changing climate. The Republican approach of saying one thing and then opposing action while the climate crisis disrupts lives across the nation will not go unnoticed by voters deciding the majority in the coming year.
The Conservative Climate Caucus is an empty vessel. It reflects the larger problem for Republicans.
According to the Center for American Progress, 52 percent of House Republicans and 60 percent of Senate Republicans still officially deny the science behind climate change. This ranges from calling climate change a hoax, to dismissing the science, to asserting that the “climate is always changing.” But a growing contingent of House Republicans realize that voters won’t forgive them for remaining climate deniers.
Those members have turned to actions like starting the much hyped Conservative Climate Caucus to pretend they are serious about tackling this crisis. In reality, they still live in the shadow of Donald Trump’s climate denial while remaining beholden to the fossil fuel lobbyists. Those lobbyists remind Republicans if they want the pipelines of campaign cash to keep flowing, they need to protect the interests of fossil fuel CEOs. That makes it impossible for efforts like this caucus to come up with a coherent plan.
Take what the Conservative Climate Caucus Chair Representative John Curtis, said to Yahoo News during the COP26 summit in response to what the Caucus is advocating for: “We should double down on the innovation-focused approach that unleashes entrepreneurs that will develop exportable and affordable solutions, not a top-down approach dictated by government, which is unfortunately what we are seeing with policies from some Democrats in reconciliation.”
His explanation makes one think Republicans would be enthusiastic about a Build Back Better Act that includes a transformational clean energy tax credit package, providing a firehose of investments to innovators that put our clean energy economy into hyperdrive, supported by Fortune 500 CEOs and entrepreneurs alike. Or that unleashes investments to clean up Black and Brown neighborhoods near toxic sites in a myriad of ways to improve public health and quality of life. Instead, House Republicans voted in lockstep against bold climate action that meets the moment.
Democrats can tell their constituents how the Build Back Better Act will create good paying jobs, cut pollution fueling climate disasters, lower energy costs for working families and begin to bring justice to communities on the frontline of climate change. Republicans, meanwhile, will continue to parrot greenwashing talking points from the oil & gas lobby focused on vague proclamations that something must be done, collect their campaign checks from fossil fuel companies, and actively try to halt progress.
A do-nothing caucus or vague pledges won’t work for frontline Republicans. Because the climate crisis is a top concern for voters.
2021 will be remembered as the moment we realized climate change is no longer a chart or a graph, or happening in some far off future. The climate crisis is happening right now. One in three people in this country were impacted by climate fueled extreme weather this summer. Republicans can’t dodge questions about it any longer — not even from their voters. Gallup’s annual voter survey on climate change reports that Republican voters aged 18-29 believe global warming is driven by human activity.
In September, polling data from the Yale Center For Climate Communications found that concern over climate change shot to a record high, with the percentage of those “very worried” increasing 10 points since March of 2021. For the first time in Yale’s research, a majority (55%) of voters agree that climate change is harming people in the US “right now.” Recent polling from Data for Progress and Climate Power revealed that three-quarters of all voters (75 percent), including 92 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents, and 57 percent of Republicans, agree the U.S. should work with other countries to combat climate change and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
These concerns from voters have led to broad support for the Build Back Better Act’s transformative policies, with that support remaining consistent through all the twists and turns for the legislation. A September poll found the Build Back Better Act popular with majorities of voters, and specific climate action even more so. Broad majorities continued to back it in an October survey. In a warning sign for frontline Republicans, by a +28 margin, voters in that October survey said they are more likely to vote for a candidate in next year’s midterms who supports the Build Back Better Act over a candidate who opposed the legislation.
A test case in how frontline Republicans can no longer hide from climate action
The entire country is feeling the brunt of the climate crisis. That’s particularly true in states like California and Florida on the front lines of extreme weather disasters; yet still have members of Congress refusing to act. Among those are California Representatives David Valadao (CA-21), Mike Garcia (CA-25), Young Kim (CA-39), Michelle Steel (CA-48) and Florida Representatives Carlos Giménez (FL-26) and Maria Salazar (FL-27).
In August and September, Climate Power ran a hard-hitting ad campaign showing the impacts climate change-fueled extreme heat, drought, and wildfires are having on California and tropical storms are waging on Florida communities. The ads ran on screens across a variety of platforms including Fox News in California and Spanish language TV in Florida. Testing of the ads demonstrated that reminding voters of Congressional Republicans’ silence on the Build Back Better plan reduced job approval by 3 points and persuaded voters that Republicans in Congress are not looking out for families.
The campaign was a signal that there would be accountability for voting the wrong way on the future of our economy and our planet. Voters will remember those members of Congress who claim to care about climate change, yet voted against taking the action that science demands is necessary and will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.