The midterm elections have brought a new era in Washington’s climate politics. It’s going be messy.
Republicans were expected to win the House in Tuesday’s elections, but early results indicated a dramatic underperformance. As of 5 a.m., the House control was still not determined and any Republican majority would be very slim. The Democrats also won a Senate seat, which gives them a better chance of keeping the upper chamber.
But the election results, which may take weeks to finalize have already had clear consequences for President Joe Biden. Months after passing the largest climate bill in American history, Congress will be more hostile to climate action.
This reality threatens Biden’s goal to reduce U.S. emissions by 2030, the pace scientists believe is necessary to prevent catastrophic warming. Republicans have pledged to use their new power against the Inflation Reduction Act and climate programs that have been passed in bipartisan bills like the infrastructure deal.
Even so, their options could be limited by the poor GOP results. House Republicans are on track to win a majority of fewer than 20 members, and possibly much less. That’s far from the shellacking President Barack Obama experienced in 2010, when his party lost 63 seats, or President Donald Trump’s 2018 midterm loss of 40 seats. The Senate could be retained by Democrats, so they can continue to confirm judges as well as administration officials.
Perhaps even more important were the Democratic gubernatorial wins. These officials will be responsible for directing hundreds of billions from Congress — the bulk Biden’s climate agenda — to real-world pollution reductions.
Republicans have placed their bets on high gasoline prices and inflation to win over voters. However, the election results show that Democrats have overcome the GOP’s energy attacks and won dozens of competitive elections.
Even in the oil patches, Democrats showed strength. Republicans lost key races in New Mexico and Texas against moderate and progressive opponents. After Trump and Biden both campaigned heavily in the Keystone State, Democrats were poised for victory in all of the competitive races.
” “Definitely not a Republican Wave, that’s for darn certain,” South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stated on NBC News. He stated that Republicans would have to find common ground with Biden.
“Maybe there is something we can do with energy,” said Graham who has previously flirted with climate legislation.
But the midterm results point towards a chaotic Congress.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is widely expected to take the speaker’s gavel in January, has said a top priority would be to roll back the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $370 billion for climate programs.
The size of McCarthy’s majority will determine how much room he has to negotiate climate policy negotiations with Democrats and Senate Republicans. The smaller the GOP majority, McCarthy will rely more on far-right lawmakers to push for tough climate policy.
House Republicans have already discussed using the debt limit as a way to get concessions on government spending. They will also have more power to force a confrontation about government funding bills. But those tactics have backfired before — including in 2011 and 2013, when Republican majorities saw their poll numbers plunge after forcing a confrontation.
GOP-led congressional inquiries will be a major threat for Biden’s climate agenda. Conservatives are eager to portray climate programs as harmful or wasteful a decade after Republicans used Solyndra’s bankruptcy to tar federal renewable energy subsidies.
Top Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris of Washington has pledged to investigate the Energy Department’s loans and spending calling it “Solyndra On Steroids.” She also stated that she would investigate how Biden “shutdown American energy .”
The House Natural Resources Committee is expecting the same. Top Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman from Arkansas has seen wide-ranging inquiries into Interior Department, NOAA and the Forest Service.
Citing this year’s Supreme Court ruling curtailing executive power , West Virginia v. EPA , Westerman warned Cabinet officials that Republicans will closely examine Biden’s climate regulations.
It’s also likely that a Republican-controlled House will disband or drastically change the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.
Though Tuesday’s election will not be resolved for some time yet, a number elections showed how climate change and energy were played into races.
New Mexico governor
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham defeated Republican Mark Ronchetti who was a former television meteorologist.
This race was important to climate politics, as the Land of Enchantment is a top oil and gas state in the country. Grisham, despite this, has enacted pioneering regulations to prevent flaring and venting methane and she’s taken steps to reduce methane leaks from drilling operations.
Democrats view her approach as a national model. Ronchetti had campaigned for reducing regulations and increasing oil production.
Grisham’s victory allows New Mexico to continue its climate policies while also proving to other Democratic governors the issue can be a political winner.
Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate.
The race of the candidates was important to climate politics, as Pennsylvania is the country’s second largest natural gas producer. This is crucial to determining Senate control. Both candidates ran as supporters of fracking, but both have criticised hydraulic fracturing in past.
Fetterman however has stated that he wants to push his party more on climate change policy, while Oz wanted to increase oil and gas production. Trump, Biden, and ex-President Barack Obama spent the last days of the campaign rallying voters in Pennsylvania on climate change, gas prices, and energy production.
This race was a three-way one between Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan, and independent candidate Betsy Johnson.
The election is important for climate politics because after Republicans derail cap-and trade bills in 2019 and , they fled the state’s Capitol. Kate Brown (D), enacted emission-cutting policies via executive action. This means that if Democrats lose the race, the Beaver State’s climate system could be undone quickly.
Johnson, a former Democratic state senator with a hefty campaign account, has attracted enough moderate voters that both parties see a chance for Republicans to win the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1982. Biden was even sent by Democrats to campaign in this normally progressive stronghold last month.
Kotek is a driving force behind the failed cap and trade bill. She has promised to pursue more climate policy. Drazan was a leader of the GOP walkout that stopped the climate bill. She has pledged to end the state’s climate programs.
Oregon ballots by universal mail ballots. Ballots postmarked by Election Day will be accepted up to seven business days later. At 5 a.m. Kotek and Drazen were neck-and-neck.
Pennsylvania’s 8th District
Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright met Jim Bognet, a political operative who was formerly appointed by Trump to the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
This race is important to climate politics, as northeastern Pennsylvania has been a major area of fracking. Cartwright, who has represented the area since 2013, has tried to strike a balance on the issue. He supports it, but he has advocated to have some environmental and health restrictions on fracking — which could be risky in his Republican-leaning District.
Bognet also ran for the seat 2020, and campaigned to increase fossil fuel production. Trump and the national Republicans gave him major support, as they were eager to flip the district which includes Scranton, Biden’s hometown.
At 5 a.m. Cartwright held a lead of 2.4 percent with most votes counted.
Colorado’s 8th District
Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer was a state senator and faced Yadira Caraveo (a state representative).
This race is important to climate politics because it covers Colorado’s largest oil and gas region and was drawn to have a even partisan split. Kirkmeyer made the defense of fossil fuel jobs a cornerstone in her campaign.
Caraveo is a pediatrician who has sponsored legislation to limit drilling. This was prominently featured in Republican attack ads. Caraveo has reaffirmed her stance by presenting it as a public-health issue. She has emphasized abortion and other social problems more often.
At 5 a.m. Caraveo led Kirkmeyer by less that 2 percentage points, with approximately two-thirds the vote counted.
California’s 47th District
Democratic Rep. Katie Porter met Republican Scott Baugh. He was the former leader of the California Assembly’s minority group.
This race is important to climate politics because Porter, a rising star in Democratic Party, has become a prominent voice on climate. She has grilled executives of oil companies as chair of the House Natural Resources Committee’s Investigations subcommittee.
She’s also a major fundraiser who could potentially seek the Senate seat held by 89-year-old Dianne Feinstein (D), who’s facing pressure to retire. That could be scuppered by a victory for Baugh.
At 5 a.m. Porter was less than a percentage point ahead of Baugh with only half the votes counted.
Texas’ 28th District
Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar defeated Republican Cassy Garcia who was a former aide of Sen. Ted Cruz.
This race was important to climate politics, as Cuellar is the House Democrat most closely aligned in the oil sector. Jessica Cisneros, a Green New Deal campaigner, has twice helped Cuellar survive primaries. Republicans saw a chance of flipping the seat after Cuellar’s house was raided by the FBI. However, no charges were filed.
Now, Cuellar’s win returns him to Congress, where he is the leader. This supports his argument that Democrats should stick close to the oil industry to win difficult races.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLIT