THE LIGHTBULB

House Democrats made their first attempt on Thursday to use their power of the legislative pen to portray Republicans as obstacles to progress on climate change, passing on Thursday a bill designed to force the United States to stay in the Paris climate accord.

Democrats know their bill, which passed 231 to 190 in a vote largely along party lines, stands little chance of being approved by the GOP-controlled Senate. And the odds that President Trump, who decided to pull out of the Paris agreement in the first place, would ever sign it are even slimmer. 

But there are lots of reasons House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democrats moved forward with the Climate Action Now Act. 

The measure, first and foremost, is a rebuke to Trump. It serves to reenforce the idea ahead of the 2020 election that Trump and other Republicans are undermining the nation’s commitment to rein in heat-trapping pollution. Only three Republicans — Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) — crossed over to vote with Democrats to pass the bill.

The bill would defund any effort by the federal government to withdraw from the agreement. It would also compel Trump to come up with a plan for meeting the United States’ Paris targets. Under the Paris accord, more than 190 nations voluntarily vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of keeping the globe under 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

So Democrats also hope its passage signals to other countries party to the Paris agreement that, if the next president is a Democrat, he or she is likely to keep the U.S. in the climate agreement.

“Passing this bill is an important signal to our allies, and my expectation is that when we act, we’ll see increased ambition from them, too,” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), lead sponsor of the legislation, told reporters a day before the vote.

Though Trump announced his intent to pull out of the Paris accord after only a few months in office, the earliest he could go forward with the withdrawal is November 2020.

“That’s an interesting date, isn’t it?” Castor said.

The Climate Action Now Act also gets Democrats on the record about what kind of tough climate measures they would support. As Democrats work to craft budget bills later this year, they could view certain elements of the bill -- such as zeroing out funding for the Paris withdrawal -- as a template for climate language to include in other must-pass bills. 

Yet Democratic leaders have yet to say they will use their budget-writing power to push those provisions any further.

When asked if parts of the Climate Action Now Act would be integrated into a House funding bill at a later date, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said: "Our focus is on pressing the Senate to act." 

An aide to Senate Democrats also said lawmakers would demand Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the Climate Action Now Act for a vote. During the appropriations process, that aide said senators will be focused broadly on "addressing the climate crisis and getting clean energy wins."

Yet McConnell shut down any hope the bill would be brought up for a vote in remarks on the Senate floor Thursday. 

"The futile gesture to handcuff the U.S. economy through the ill-fated Paris deal will go nowhere here in the Senate."

Read the rest of the story here:

Climate and Environment
The Democratic measure is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. But House leaders hope to use it to paint Trump and other Republicans as backward on climate change.
Dino Grandoni
POWER PLAYS

— Trump eases offshore drilling safety rules: The Interior Department released a final rule to ease safety regulations for offshore drilling operations that were put in place following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The administration did so looking to get rid of “unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. But lawmakers and conservationists are concerned how the environment will be affected by the change, comes as the administration is working to expand offshore drilling leases, The Post’s Darryl Fears reports.

— Trump vs. the world, Arctic edition: The White House pushed to slash references to climate change from an international policy statement on the Arctic that’s expected to be endorsed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, The Post’s Anne Gearan, Carol Morello and John Hudson report. The Arctic Council declaration is meant to be a nonbinding set of goals shared by the eight Arctic nations, but the administration “threatened a standoff in which the United States would not sign onto a statement that included climate discussion and other members would not agree to a version that left it out,” they write.

The debate is just the latest way the Trump administration has pushed back on consensus around the climate issue. Global warming is a particularly critical pressure point for the council because of how much warming has accelerated in the Arctic. Officials from member states told The Post that the Trump administration has recently softened its position.

— Jay Inslee rolls out proposal to dramatically cut carbon pollution: The Washington governor just became the latest presidential candidate to announce a climate plan. His calls for "zero-emission futures in three sectors of the economy — transportation, electricity, and residential and commercial buildings — that in 2017 accounted for nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions," according to The Post's Joshua Partlow. With visits to flood-damaged areas in the Midwest and wildfire-damaged areas in California, Inslee is trying to brand himself as the climate candidate in the crowded 2020 field.

— Investigator and investigatee at the same table: Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee grilled Daniel Jorjani, Trump’s pick to be the Interior Department solicitor, in a hearing alongside Mark Lee Greenblatt, who is the nominee to take over as inspector general in a role that would include investigating Jorjani. “At the witness table there are two nominees, Mr. Daniel Jorjani who believes he deserves an ethics job promotion even though his current job coincides with the blizzard of ethical lapses by Ryan Zinke,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “Sitting next to him is Mark Greenblatt, the nominee to be the Interior inspector general, which is a job charged with being a key line of defense against corruption at the Interior Department.”

Wyden criticized Jorjani for a “non-existent record of ethics enforcement” as acting solicitor and during one exchange said: “The way Interior has acted under the Trump administration is the textbook definition of a political cartel, using state resources to help the special interests. And it sure looks like Mr. Jorjani has been a key member of the cartel.” Wyden also told Greenblatt that he would have his “work cut out for you.”

— Senate closes in on a deal on disaster spending: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and panel member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said they are near a deal on a new disaster aid spending compromise, but are cautiously waiting for support from other congressional leaders and from the White House, Politico reports. The Post’s Erica Werner reported this week about Shelby's new offer that would send $300 million in additional funding to Puerto Rico in an effort to break a months-long impasse over the issue. According to Politico, he and Leahy say that “all parties are feeling the urgency now to get aid out to communities that are trying to recover from hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and extreme flooding.”

THERMOMETER

— Wicked weather and deadly disasters, mapped: When it comes to the extreme weather and natural disasters, some of which have made worse by climate change, no state is totally insulated. In a newly published set of maps, The Post’s Tim Meko depicts the geography of natural disasters in the United States using more than a decade of data from the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

OIL CHECK

— GM in talks over Missouri plant expansion: General Motors officials are in discussions with Missouri state and local leaders over a potential $1 billion expansion of an assembly plant in the state. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) told reporters after a closed-door meeting Thursday that the company detailed a plan that would expand the Wentzville plant by hundreds of thousands of square feet, adding an undefined number of new jobs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Missouri is also competing with other states for the expansion, per the report. The report notes that while “officials are revealing scant details, the package is expected to be a combination of infrastructure spending, tax incentives and subsidies and will need approval from the Legislature, Parson said.”

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy holds a field hearing on “How the Domestic Nuclear Industry Boosts Local Economies, Curbs Emissions, and Strengthens National Security.”  
EXTRA MILEAGE

— More on the alleged Russian spy whale: The beluga whale that was discovered in Norway last week seems to be refusing to leave the port city. Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig told The Post’s Rick Noack that the whale had not moved more than 25 nautical miles since it was found and appeared to enjoy its proximity to humans, which Wiig said was “strange” for a beluga. It has even let people pet its nose.