Thirty-one Republicans on the House Energy And Commerce Committee —the entire Republican contingent on the panel—declined on Tuesday to vote in support of the very idea that climate change exists.
Democrats on the panel had suggested three amendments that said climate change is a real thing, is caused by humans and has potentially dire consequences for the future. The amendments came on a Republican bill to block the EPA from offering regulations to mitigate the results of global climate shifts. The global scientific community is in near unanimous agreement that climate change is real, and that humans contribute to it.
None of the 31 Republicans on the committee would vote yes on any of the amendments (Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R-TN] declined to vote on one.) The committee's 21 Democrats voted yes on all three.
Though the result may seem shocking to supporters of climate legislation, activists say this is pretty much what they expect from the GOP these days. There was a time when members of the mainstream GOP were ready to offer their own solutions to climate change. But in the tea party age, those Republicans are few and far between at best, observers say.
"It's not looking very pretty right now on climate science," the Sierra Club's John Coequyt told TPM. "It seems like the move [among Republicans] is to reject the whole thing, to sort of bury your head in the sand."
- Rep. Diana DeGette's (D-CO) amendment: "'the scientific evidence is compelling' that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from anthropogenic emissions 'are the root cause of recently observed climate change.'"
- The one from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): "Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that 'warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.'"
- And the third from Rep. Jay Islee (D-WA) "says human-caused climate change is a threat to public health and welfare."
None are acceptable to the Republicans on the House Energy Committee. Of course, the amendments were put into the EPA bill by upset Democrats hoping to get Republicans on the record expressing their true feelings about climate change. Forcing votes on politically-minded amendments is a time honored tradition on Capitol Hill.
But the out and out rejection of climate change as a concept evident in the committee vote might put the House Republicans at odds with another set: those considering a run for the White House.
And how far away are the 31 Republicans on the House committee from the American people when it comes to climate change? Polling suggests maybe not all that far.
A Gallup poll released this week shows a deep dive in public attitudes about climate change from 2008, when around 66% of respondents said the issue "worried" them. Now just 51% do, a number that has held about steady since 2010.
As Tuesday's House committee vote makes clear, the partisan split on climate change is huge. Just 31% of Republicans told Gallup earlier this month that they worry "a great deal" or "fair amount" about climate change. Seventy-two percent of Democrats said the same thing, as did 51% of independents.