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House votes to block Trump from exiting Paris climate accord

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 McConnell (R-Ky.) has said it “will go nowhere.”

{mosads}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-Cortez (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 Khanna (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 Trump 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 Tonko (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 Tlaib (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 Shimkus (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 Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Vern Buchanan (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.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Brian Fitzpatrick Climate change policy Donald Trump Elise Stefanik Green New Deal John Shimkus Members of the United States Congress Mitch McConnell Paul Tonko Presidency of Donald Trump Rashida Tlaib Rashida Tlaib Ro Khanna Ro Khanna Vern Buchanan

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