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Republicans form conservation caucus to take on environment, climate change

Republicans form conservation caucus to take on environment, climate change
© Greg Nash

Republicans on Wednesday launched an environment-minded conservation caucus aimed at battling the perception that their party doesn’t care about climate change.

Dubbed the Republican Roosevelt Conservation Caucus after National Park Service founder President Teddy Roosevelt, the bicameral group lists public land access, water quality and ocean pollution among its priorities.

“From a Republican point of view, I think we need to showcase that we care about conservation, we care about the environment, and we have innovative solutions that are not top-down regulatory solutions,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters.

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Graham also called the Democrat’s Green New Deal plan to reduce the nation's environmental impact “crazy economics,” adding that “innovation is going to do more to solve this problem than any government mandate.”

“We believe our friends on the other side care about the environment, but they care so much they’re going to destroy the economy in the name of saving the environment. That’s a false choice,” Graham said.

He also said Democrats have been too alarmist about climate change, adding, “You don't have to ground all the airplanes and kill all the cows."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans MORE (R-Ky.) has said policies like the Green New Deal and a recently passed bill to recommit the U.S. to the Obama-era Paris climate accord would "go nowhere" in the Senate.

But critics have long said the Republican Party has done little to forward its own ideas on how to respond to the climate crisis under the leadership of a president who has mocked global warming.

Republicans, alongside Democrats, have introduced a number of bills this year that would fund research and development for battery storage, carbon capture technology and other energy needs.

But the caucus members on Wednesday stressed that traditional energy sources like coal, oil and gas would remain a part of the mix.

Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastTapper battles GOP lawmakers over criticism of Afghan vet's Electoral College vote Republican war veteran gives Guard troops a tour of the Capitol LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to impeach Trump after Capitol insurrection MORE (R-Fla.) said traditional energy sources are important for affordability.

“Somebody can’t worry about the energy efficiency of their home if they're worried about where their next meal comes from. Somebody can’t worry about the standards or emissions of their automobile if they’re worried about going to work the next day," he said, referring to a Trump administration proposal to freeze  fuel efficiency standards for cars in an effort to make new vehicles more affordable.

"These things go hand in hand,” he added.

An environmental response from the Republican Party could prove important in the 2020 election as a greater share of voters list climate change among their concerns.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.), for example, could find himself in a competitive reelection race next year in a green-minded state.

“We are going to give future generations, tell the people of Colorado, that we’re going to assure them that the next generation is going to receive an environment that is in better condition, better shape, better health than the one they inherited when they were born,” he said. 

Graham also pushed back against President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE's comments on climate change, saying the vast majority of scientists are worried about climate change and say action must be taken.

“I believe the nine out of the 10, not the one,” Graham said of scientists' consensus. “I would encourage the president to look long and hard at the science and find the solution. I’m tired of playing defense on the environment.”