The major budget deal reached by negotiators in Congress last night had important wins for the environment, but it would have been a disaster absent the threat of a presidential veto. That simple fact, too easily overlooked, lays bare the blinding desire of the Republican Party to please Big Oil at all costs, even if it means dropping much of the rest of their anti-environment agenda for the time being.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to bargain with Democrats, and ditch some of the outrageous anti-environment riders his GOP colleagues sought to attach to the bill, only because Barack Obama still resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He needed Democrats to rescue him from the so-called Freedom Caucus of Republicans whose organizing principle is to shut down the government and ship copies of Ayn Rand novels to idled federal workers.
With a President Cruz or Trump (or Rubio or Bush) in the White House to back them up, Congressional Republicans would have been free to lay waste to vital clean water protections and kill the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which undergirds the Paris climate agreement. But last night the GOP’s dominant anti-environment crowd traded all of that for one Democratic concession – the end to the oil export ban – not least because it was the top priority of their beloved, the oil industry.
Days after the Paris agreement that struck a blow to Big Oil, Republicans have responded by force-feeding the worldwide glut of dirty energy. That could stoke the production of oil – good for Big Oil but not of much benefit to anyone else – and make attacking climate change harder.
Voters will decide in 2016 whether this affair has gone on too long, and they appear not to be the mood for the usual dissembling and distortion when it comes to action on climate change and clean energy. If Republicans stay true to Big Oil, they may lose the White House again.
Man, the things we do for love.
Franz Matzner is a senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund.