The Most Anti-Environment House of Representatives in the History of Congress?
The year of the 112th Congress will always be remembered as a turbulent one: the bitter partisan battles and the debt ceiling standoff that nearly sunk the nation's economy have assured as much. But this was also the year of a historically anti-environmental Congress, thanks primarily to a House of Representatives newly stocked with Tea Party candidates eager to roll back environmental protections and support the fossil fuels industry.
In total, the House of Representatives registered a record-breaking 191 anti-environment votes--more than one vote against the environment for every day Congress was in session.
A new report, released yesterday by a cadre of Congress's (few) concerned environmental advocates, has analysed and indexed the carnage. The authors of the report, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Edward J. Markey, and Rep. Howard L. Berman, pulled no punches in their conclusion: this was "the most anti-environment house in the history of Congress".
Here's a breakdown of the findings from the report:
- "The House of Representatives averaged more than one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011.
- More than one in five of the legislative roll call votes taken in 2011 – 22% – were votes to undermine environmental protections.
- On average, 228 Republican members of the House – 94% of the Republican members – voted for the anti-environment position during these roll call votes. On average, 164 Democratic members of the House – 86% of the Democratic members – voted for the pro-environment position."
And here's how the anti-environment votes themselves broke down: "The anti-environment votes cut across a broad array of issues and included
- 27 votes to block action to address climate change,
- 77 votes to undermine Clean Air Act protections,
- 28 votes to undermine Clean Water Act protections, and
- 47 votes to weaken protection of public land and coastal waters.
- The Environmental Protection Agency was the target of 114 of these votes..."
This profound anti-environment streak in Congress is the product of two things: a slew of far-right Tea Party candidates sweeping the GOP back into power, and aggressive industry efforts to exploit the popular anti-regulatory sentiment and the Big Government-hating freshmen. With the two combined, we saw a perplexing blend of attacks on the EPA for being emblematic of government overreach, staunch defense of government-funded oil subsidies, efforts to kill life-saving pollution controls at the behest of the fossil fuels industry, and a crusade to award new public lands to gas, oil, and coal interests.
We've long become accustomed to the GOP opposing environmental interests at every turn--but this year was overkill.