Republicans are telegraphing a message to world leaders at the start of the Paris climate talks: President Obama is all alone.
To underscore that point, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to block regulations to rein in pollution from power plants, the cornerstone of the administration’s effort to tackle global warming.
The vote is largely symbolic, since the White House has vowed a veto that Republicans won’t be able to overturn. Yet it sends a clear signal: U.S. diplomats may be working to negotiate a global climate deal, but the president is acting without support from the majority of Congress. Conservatives aren’t missing any chance to point out that the president’s efforts to procure an agreement are far from secure.
“The next president could simply tear it up,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proclaimed on the Senate floor on Monday, referring to the president's power plant regulations. “Governments currently engaged in this round of climate talks will want to know that there is more than just an Executive Branch in our system of government,” he added, noting that the climate agenda “may not even survive much longer anyway.”
The White House and Congress have long squabbled over the threat of climate change. Many Republicans reject the scientific consensus that global warming is real and man-made, and warn that action to cut greenhouse gases will cripple the economy. During the president’s first term, Republicans and a few Democratic defectors sunk efforts to pass climate legislation. Since then, Obama has made clear he won’t wait for Congress to take action.