News / USA

    Congress Gets High Marks From Environmental Group

    But partisan divide could soon lead to failing grade

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    An environmental group is applauding Congress for its green record in 2009 but sweeping climate change appears doubtful given the partisan divide on Capitol Hill.

    Each year the Washington-based League of Conservation Voters releases a scorecard that rates the performance of members of Congress on environment and energy issues.

    LCV Legislative director Tiernan Sittenfeld says this year's scorecard reflects an ambitious legislative agenda for the environment in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The 2009 scorecard includes 11 Senate and 13 House votes dominated by clean energy and global warming.

    The non-profit League of Conservation Voters releases its environmental scorecard every year to track votes in Congress.
    The non-profit League of Conservation Voters releases its environmental scorecard every year to track votes in Congress.

    Voting green

    Among the environmentally-significant bills Congress passed last year was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package. Eighty billion dollars of that total was to be pumped into the U.S. economy to promote development of renewable energy, urban mass transit, high-speed rail systems and clean energy jobs.

    Congress also boosted environmental funding and passed a public lands law. And last June, says Sittenfeld, the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the first bill out of either chamber of Congress to directly take on the challenge of global warming. University of Michigan political science professor Barry Rabe notes that the bill passed by a slim margin and that, in the months since that House vote, members have shifted positions.  

    Party lines

    "It's not at all clear that if you took the same bill back to the House today that it would pass. Some of the supporters on the Republican side have expressed concerns," says Rabe. "A number of the Democrats, who voted for it, particularly from agricultural districts, about 38 legislators, have suggested that today might view that differently."

    But before any bill can become law, the Senate must pass its version, the House and Senate bills must be reconciled and that final measure must be signed by the President.

    Rabe says the League's 2009 Environmental Scorecard indicates that most of the votes on energy and the environment were split along party lines, reflecting the deep political divisions evident in other Congressional efforts. "If you see a number of scores on a hundred point scale on the 40, 50, 60 range that suggests that [members of Congress] are moving back and forth. You see an awful lot of folks on one side close to zero and on the other close to 100 percent."    

    Partisan divide

    Rabe says as the November 2010 mid-term elections approach, prospects for any sweeping climate legislation are growing slimmer. "Instead we are more likely to see something that is …more connected with economic development and jobs creation."

    Rabe adds that the 2009 Muhlenberg-Michigan National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change released in January, finds voter concerns about the environment have declined, eclipsed in part by the economy, unemployment, banking and growing skepticism about government.

    "This is often the case, when you go into a declining economy, that environmental concerns decline somewhat, in part because the impact of environmental problems, certainly climate change, are not likely to be felt immediately, and it's compelling to kick that proverbial can down the road and focus on whatever the issue of the moment is," says Rabe.

    League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski says opposition from the oil industry is another major roadblock to congressional passage of a comprehensive climate bill. "Big oil and their friends in Congress are trying to stop this," he says. "They are spending record amounts of money trying to stop this."

    But Professor Rabe says partisanship poses an even greater roadblock. His view is that the debate has been one dominated by extreme on both sides. "So in that sense I am sympathetic with what might be stated by the LCV.  The tricky part is presenting this in a way that is credible and allows for serious discussion."

    One key to breaking the current impasse on climate and energy legislation, says the League's Gene Karpinski, will be if the public demands stronger leadership from members of Congress and from the White House. "And we need to make sure that public sends a message loudly and clearly that they want this done," he says.
     
    Karpinski says to do that, the League of Conservation Voters has mounted a nation-wide campaign to build support for new climate legislation among labor, industry and veterans groups, who have been suspicious of the measure's potential impact on the American business community.  The League hopes it can convince skeptics that a vote for a new climate law will be good not only for the U.S. economy but for the planet as well.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.