Republicans’ effort is aimed squarely at the other nations negotiating with the U.S. on the accord that Obama hopes will be a big piece of his green legacy. “If there is one message that I would like to send to the international community ahead of the international climate-change conference, it is this: Without Senate approval, there will be no money,” Barrasso said at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Wednesday.
The White House did not comment on the letter. The White House budget request submitted to Congress early this year asks for $500 million of the $3 billion pledge, and while Republicans are no fans of climate programs, Secretary of State John Kerry recently predicted that Obama would get money from Congress.
“We’ll get there, because the trade-offs of the budget are such that when something is a high enough priority for a president, you have a way of getting it done, even though it’s opposed by people” Kerry told The Financial Times last week, even hinting that Obama would veto spending legislation that omitted it.
The Green Climate Fund is part of wider efforts under the U.N. negotiations to mobilize $100 billion annually in climate finance from public and private sources by 2020.
The letter is the latest effort by Republicans to influence the pact that the Obama administration and governments from nearly 200 nations hope to reach during the high-stakes talks in Paris. Republicans are seeking to show that the U.S. might not follow through on commitments that Obama is making. But thus far, the efforts have been largely messaging by a party that doesn’t have a seat at the table.
The Senate passed a pair of GOP-led bills yesterday that would block sweeping EPA regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants, rules that would help the U.S. to meet the pledge it offered in the climate negotiations to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The House is likely to follow suit, but the measures are largely symbolic because they already face a firm White House veto threat.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican helping to lead the GOP effort, said ahead of the vote that lawmakers are trying to send a message to the Paris talks. “[President Obama] is getting ready to enter into a global climate agreement. I think by showing that we disapprove of this regulation, [it] shows that the country is not behind the policies he is putting forward,” she told reporters in the Capitol.
There’s more to come. Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Mike Kelly will soon introduce resolutions demanding that the planned Paris agreement will be submitted to the Senate for ratification.
But Republicans, lacking a veto-proof majority, have very limited options when it comes to demanding a say in the outcome of the Paris talks.