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 McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast 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-CortezTlaib says Trump 'scared' of 'Squad' The Memo: Dangers loom for Trump on immigration Students retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds 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) KhannaKing incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks San Jose mayor proposes mandatory liability insurance for gun owners Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax 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 TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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 TonkoLawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits House Democrats push automakers to rebuff Trump, join California's fuel efficiency deal Overnight Energy: Democrats seek help in appealing to conservatives on climate | Whistleblowers say Interior sidelined scientists | Automakers strike fuel efficiency deal with California in rebuff to Trump 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 TlaibTlaib says Trump 'scared' of 'Squad' Michigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota 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 ShimkusIllinois House Republicans call on Trump to not commute Blagojevich's sentence Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress California official blasts EPA head over car standard negotiations 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. FitzpatrickHouse Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Ensuring quality health care for those with intellectual disabilities and autism House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad MORE (Pa.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikRepublican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker 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.