WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are using the budget process to offer a clear contrast ahead of an election year between their embrace of aggressive action on climate change and the rollbacks of environmental regulation championed by Republicans when they controlled the chamber in the 115th Congress.
Many of the provisions they've included in the fiscal 2020 spending bills may not survive the GOP-led Senate, but Democrats are aware of national polls showing growing voter concern about the climate crisis.
"This bill recognizes the importance of science to understand the impacts of climate change and our natural cultural resources and our ecosystems and human health," House Interior-Environment Appropriations Chairwoman Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said at the start of debate on the bill that funds the EPA and the Interior Department.
The Interior-Environment bill is part of a $322 billion, five-bill package that the House is expected to vote on this week after working through amendments that started last week. The House on Wednesday passed another multi-bill package, which included climate measures that sparked debate with GOP critics.
The Democrats thwarted several attempts by Republicans to strip the measures of language requiring the Trump administration to enforce existing climate regulations, stay in the Paris Agreement and retreat from a plan to expand offshore drilling across nearly all U.S. waters.
"I believe we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave this planet better than we found it," McCollum said during floor debate. "Limiting pollution from power plants is part of an overall strategy to protect us from the worst impacts of climate change. We owe it to the next generation."
McCollum was addressing an amendment by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., that would have prohibited the EPA from enforcing the requirements of the 2015 Clean Power Plan.
That Obama administration climate rule aimed to significantly cut U.S. carbon emissions across the power sector but was never implemented because of court challenges fom the industry and Republican-controlled states. The EPA last week finalized a more lenient replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which sets no limits on power plant emissions and aims to prop up the struggling coal sector.
"It's evident that the Clean Power Plan is nothing more than a feel-good environmental regulation promulgated by the radical left," Duncan said. His amendment was rejected, 192-240.
In the Agriculture spending bill, lawmakers voted to adopt an amendment by Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., that would prevent the Agriculture Department from using appropriated funds to remove existing information about climate change from official publications.