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Roe challenges Democrats on environment

Nathan Baker • May 2, 2019 at 6:42 PM

Shortly before voting against a Democrat-backed bill aimed at affirming the country’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Rep. Phil Roe challenged progressives to stand behind their posturing on environmental issues.

On a conference call Thursday with representatives of media outlets in his district, Roe, R-Johnson City, said he signed onto a Republican-led effort to force a vote in the House on a non-binding resolution that would set nationwide goals to eliminate pollutants, create jobs in renewable energy production and achieve other progressive social objectives, collectively known as the Green New Deal.

“If you’re going to sign on this thing, then you ought to have to vote for it,” Roe said. “That’s all it is. If you believe in it, then punch the ‘yes’ button or the ‘no’ button, I have to do it all the time on things I don’t want to have to vote on.”

By forcing a vote on the environmental and social agenda using a legislative mechanism called a discharge petition, Republicans hope to drive a wedge between more socially liberal legislators on the left wing of the Democratic Party, many of them elected in last year’s midterms, and the more conservative members of their party.

In March, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., forced a vote in the Senate on the Green New Deal, calling the proposal a “far-left wish list.” It failed 57-0, with all Republicans and four Democrats blocking the resolution and 43 Democrats voting “present.”

In the House, where Democrats outnumber Republicans, Roe said it’s not likely the discharge petition will get the 218 signatures it needs.

The congressman dovetailed his criticism of the Green New Deal with comments on a bill called the Climate Action Now Act, which did pass the House Thursday.

That bill seeks to deny funding for any efforts to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a global initiative to reduce carbon emissions, and to force the White House to form a plan to meet the commitments to the agreement made by President Barack Obama, despite President Donald Trump’s announced intentions to withdraw the country from the agreement at the earliest possible date in November 2020.

Roe, said a major flaw of the Paris Agreement, which allowed countries to set their own goals to reduce emissions, was that China and India, two significant producers of carbon emissions, set their timelines for reduction later than the U.S.

In the meantime, the U.S. has reduced its emissions by more than any other country since 2005 without the agreement, Roe said.

The Paris Agreement bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Roe also bemoaned House Democrats’ treatment of Attorney General William Barr during hearings on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and questions surrounding Trump campaign actions.

“The Democrats are doing what they do, they’re trying to destroy the attorney general just like they did Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing,” Roe said before predicting calling for investigations into the political motivations of members of Mueller’s investigation team.

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