Conservatives come out against carbon tax bill from GOP lawmaker

Conservatives come out against carbon tax bill from GOP lawmaker
© Greg Nash

A newly proposed carbon tax bill is creating a fissure in the Republican Party, with conservative groups coming out in fierce opposition Monday to legislation introduced by a House GOP lawmaker.

Several conservative groups bashed a measure introduced earlier in the day by Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal MORE (R-Fla.) that would impose a tax on carbon-emitting companies.

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Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist called the bill a political loser.

“Carbon doesn’t pay taxes — families pay taxes, people pay taxes, taxpayers pay taxes,” Norquist said at the National Press Club. “This is just the most recent effort by the left to find a way to get into your pockets.”

Conservatives took turns denouncing the legislation, which would impose a tax on companies that emit gases that contribute to climate change. Opponents highlighted the hundreds of dollars in energy price hikes it could bring to U.S. households.

They also characterized Curbelo as a Republican who is trying to appease Democrats. Curbelo is running for reelection in a congressional district that presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGraham: There's a 'bureaucratic coup' taking place against Trump Fox News poll shows Dems with edge ahead of midterms Poll: Democrats in position to retake the House MORE won handily in 2016.

“There is no appreciation to be gained by the real Democrats by pretending to be a Democrat,” Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, said of Curbelo. “There’s a Republican consensus against this bill. It’s a bad idea, and any Republican who is tempted to embrace it will see very little friends on both sides of the aisle.”

The event was held down the hall from where Curbelo introduced his legislation two hours earlier.

Curbelo’s bill would repeal federal taxes on gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels and replace those with a $24 per metric ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions that would increase annually.

The measure also breaks with the party’s long-standing opposition to policies that punish the fossil fuel industry for carbon pollution.

The carbon tax in Curbelo's bill would apply to coal mines, fuel refineries, certain manufacturing facilities, natural gas processors and fossil fuel importers. It would likely increase the cost of products and services that use fossil fuels, and revenues from the tax would go toward infrastructure, low-income households and climate mitigation projects.

Many of the conservative speakers at Monday's event disputed that a carbon tax would thwart rising temperatures and climate change.

“Science is a distraction, it’s a rhetorical gotcha,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Of course I believe in manmade global warming, but it’s much better than they’ve told us.”

Norquist said it was unnecessary to look at the science to see that the proposal would not help the free market.

“You don’t have to get into the science,” Norquist said. “You can get into the question of, ‘have more free market solutions led to lower emissions as new technologies and fracking have evolved?’ And people who told us this couldn’t happen were wrong.”

The bill is adding fuel to an already fiery debate about whether fossil fuel companies should be held responsible for emitting greenhouse gases.

Last week, the House passed a mostly symbolic resolution introduced by Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' MORE (R-La.) that spells out opposition to a potential carbon tax. While Republicans hailed the vote outcome as a victory, six GOP members opposed it; a similar measure introduced by Scalise in 2016 received unanimous Republican support.

Republicans at Monday’s press event warned that those six members would have to deal with voting against the party as they seek reelection.

“Such a foolish vote is only a mistake for the members who vote that way,” said Kerpen.

Norquist said the vote might become crucial for midterm election races.

“Every single congressman who voted against Scalise should be educated — all citizens should know where their congressman or senator or state legislator stands on making their energy affordable for them, and I think all center-right groups will work on highlighting that,” Norquist said.

Timothy Cama contributed to this report.