Republicans Answer Obama With Drilling Bill

Amy Harder
National Journal

Just one day after President Obama unveiled his plan to bypass Congress and combat climate change using executive-branch regulations, House Republican leaders touted their proposal to vote Friday on legislation to expand offshore oil and natural-gas drilling.

The bill, sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., would require the Obama administration to implement a five-year leasing plan that moves forward with oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, the Eastern states, and the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has threatened a veto. But the move is one more piece of evidence of the great distance between Obama and Republican leaders on combating climate change.

As long as both sides are talking past each other and pushing radically different policies, a bipartisan solution to climate change will remain elusive.

“Contrast [the bill] with the president’s policies,” Hastings said in the briefing Wednesday. “Yesterday he made it pretty clear his energy policy essentially is a tax on energy.”

When asked about Obama’s climate-change plan, congressional Republicans focus almost exclusively on what they say would be its detrimental economic effects, and they ignore the scientific consensus that finds that human consumption of fossil fuels causes the Earth’s temperature to rise.

“Our argument with the president right now is, he’s picking winners and losers,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who refused to even use the word “science” when asked whether Republicans think the science of climate change is settled.

In his speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, Obama argued that the science behind global warming compels urgent action. “I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real,” Obama said. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”

Asked whether he thinks climate-change science is as convincing as Obama says it is, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., retorted: “He talked about the Flat Earth Society. We have a very flat economy.”

“You used the word compelling,” Barrasso told a reporter. “And I don’t think so. I think you have to focus on the American economy. The costs of the regulations are real. And the benefits are unknown.”

Meanwhile, some advocates of climate change are encouraging a focus on science and the health effects over economics. A talking-points memo sent Monday night ahead of Obama’s speech told the president’s supporters to downplay economic arguments and words like “regulations.”

The memo includes a “do’s and don’t’s” list of phrases to use when advocating for action on climate change. “Do discuss modernizing and retooling power plants and innovation that will create green jobs,” reads one part of the 14-page memo. “Don’t try to suggest net job increases.”