House votes to block Trump from exiting Paris climate accord

House votes to block Trump from exiting Paris climate accord
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House Democrats passed the first climate bill in nearly a decade Thursday in what they are labeling the “first step” in building a strategy to fight global warming.

The House voted 231-190 to pass the Climate Action Now Act, which seeks to block the Trump administration from exiting the Obama-era Paris climate agreement, among other actions. Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.

The legislation now heads go to the Republican-led Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Biden to deliver remarks in Philadelphia Tuesday on nationwide protests Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests MORE (R-Ky.) has said it "will go nowhere."

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Democrats embraced the legislation while acknowledging its limited scope, with a number of progressive lawmakers and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates pushing for a more robust plan to combat climate change.

“I think we need to support whatever action on climate that we can get. I certainly think that we need to do more, and it’s not about any one bill,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew York City issues Monday night curfew amid protests Engel primary challenger drops out, endorses fellow challenger Trump says he will designate antifa a terrorist organization MORE (D-N.Y.), who has been pushing the Green New Deal, the House’s other major climate measure that has not been brought up for a vote or had a hearing.

“I mean H.R. 9 is a resolution as well. I’m really just eager and looking forward to legislation that has teeth to it,” she said, referring to the bill passed Thursday.

Several Democrats have stressed that the legislation championed by House Democratic leadership should be viewed as a jumping off point for additional climate bills.

“It’s one of the first. I don’t think it can be the only one," said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Delaney says Trump is spewing venom when he should be leading; Protests roil the nation as fears of new virus outbreaks grow Is the 'endless frontier' at an end? Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues MORE (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “We’re going to need a lot of bills, to tackle climate change, so this is a good start.”

The House-approved legislation would force President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE to keep the U.S. in the landmark Paris climate agreement and direct the executive branch to figure out how to make the country hit the emissions goals laid out in the international accord.

Trump announced months after taking office in 2017 that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord negotiated under his predecessor, though the U.S. cannot officially pull out of the agreement until 2020.

The president has argued that the 2015 agreement is "very unfair at the highest level to the United States" and announced plans to withdraw despite many other nations deciding to remain in the agreement.

Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoHouse coronavirus stimulus bill to include effort to limit political influence over science House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs OVERNIGHT ENERGY: More than 70 lawmakers join suit challenging Trump power plant rollbacks | Ranchers sue Trump administration, arguing water rollback is federal overreach |Democrats press Trump administration over plan to reopen national parks MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on climate, praised the bill Thursday for its simplistic nature, noting that Congress must still do more down the line.

“We want to start this by putting out a rather straightforward, basic request, and from there develop the ideas. This is just saying, ‘Mr. President come up with the ideas,’ but we as a Congress have to put things together, have to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and that step still remains for all of us,” he said. 

Other Democrats have likened the legislation to a messaging bill.

The measure currently has no Senate companion and lacks support in the GOP, but Democrats argue that the bill is important to enforce the idea that the party is behind fighting climate change.

“It’s the same as the Green New Deal: aspirational,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

But he said, “I think you have to make some clear distinctions about how this House majority stands and where the Senate and where the President stand. I think those distinctions have to be made, whether it goes anywhere or not.”

Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibPelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (D-Mich.) added that the bill’s passage doesn’t mean lawmakers have given up on the broader Green New Deal being advocated by progressives such as Ocasio-Cortez.

“A lot of the movement around climate justice, especially the movement around Green New Deal, is growing outside of the halls of Congress and that’s where true movement and transformational initiatives like that are going to be uplifted,” Tlaib said.

“So just know that passing something like that doesn’t mean that movement stops,” she said.

Republicans in the House have largely pushed back against the bill, which they argue is a rushed measure that has no chance of being taken up in the Senate or signed by Trump.

"Even if the president will sign a bill that he doesn’t want to enact, he’ll probably then veto the bill he just signed, then we’d sustain his veto," Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusBottom line Bottom Line Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic MORE (R-Ill.) said on the House floor Thursday morning.

"So if we really want to move forward, we want to do things that can get through the Senate and get through the president's desk," he said.

Those measures he said, would include moderate bills on climate adaptation, resiliency and grid modernization.

Just three Republicans lawmakers voted for the measure in the House: Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickKey races to watch in Tuesday's primaries Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (Pa.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikBipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (N.Y.) and Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (Fla.).

McConnell signaled Thursday before the House vote took place that the legislation before lawmakers would not be taken up in the upper chamber.

"This futile gesture to handcuff the U.S. economy through the ill-fated Paris deal will go nowhere here in the Senate. We’re in the business of actually helping middle-class families, not inventing new obstacles to throw in their paths," he said on the Senate floor.

The House last passed a climate bill in 2009. The narrowly passed bill aimed to create a cap-and-trade system that would set a limit on overall emissions. The measure was never taken up in the Senate.