The recent relaunch of the congressional Climate Solutions Caucus keeps alive an important bipartisan forum on climate change, says Mark Reynolds, executive director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), an advocacy group that helped to found the caucus and supports its efforts.
The House caucus, which was weakened with the 2018 election defeat of its then cochair, former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), and other Republican caucus members, relaunched on 20 June with 22 Republican and 41 Democratic members.
That’s down from the last congressional session when there were 90 members equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) continues as the Democratic cochair, with Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) taking Curbelo’s place as the Republican cochair.
“As we head into a presidential election, the tendency is to ratchet up partisan rhetoric, which can be an obstacle to enacting solutions to climate change. The Climate Solutions Caucus can help to tamp down those partisan tendencies on climate change and make it a bridge issue instead of a wedge issue,” Reynolds told Eos. “We need buy-in from both parties to have any chance of enacting solutions.”
The caucus was established in 2016 to educate members of Congress about climate change threats to the economy, security, environment, and infrastructure and to explore bipartisan and economically viable policy options.
In relaunching the caucus, Deutch said, “Americans want Congress to act on climate change. But we’re not going to get anywhere without bipartisan support.”
Rooney noted that “sea level rise, carbon emissions, and the overall health of our climate are bipartisan issues and I am encouraged that there are a growing number of people on both sides of the aisle willing to find solutions.”
Finding Areas of Common Ground
The top priority for the caucus should be to find areas of common ground where Republicans and Democrats can come together on bipartisan solutions, Reynolds said. “There are a number of bipartisan bills introduced to take small steps toward addressing climate change,” he said. “Getting the caucus to support these small steps could eventually lead to the caucus playing a role in bigger steps.”
Reynolds said that the biggest disappointment from the last Congress was that the caucus “didn’t get more support from the wider climate community. How many spaces are there where both parties can come together in respectful and appreciative dialogue on this most important of issues?”
In the past, some members of Congress have been accused of joining the caucus to “greenwash” their weak political records on climate change. However, Reynolds said that members of Congress shouldn’t consider the caucus as a way to mask a poor record.
“If a member of the caucus is not actively engaged in working on solutions, their opponent in the next election will be quick to point that out,” Reynolds said. “Simply being a member of the caucus will not provide political cover for them. Joining the caucus is just the first step toward climate leadership.”
—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer