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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    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.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora