Congress moves 1st climate bill in a decade, as some Trump allies warm to action

House Democrats voted to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement.

May 02, 2019, 7:00 PM

For the first time in 10 years, Congress moved a bill to address climate change.

House Democrats -- and three Republicans -- voted Thursday to force President Donald Trump to make plans to sharply curb American greenhouse gas emissions and keep the U.S. in the Paris climate accord, which Trump renounced last year.

"He took that unilateral action. We are affirming that we believe the US should be a part of the Paris climate accord," freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., one of the bill's co-sponsors told ABC News Live.

The Climate Action Now Act passed the House 231 to 190 and moves to the Senate.

"Global climate change is a national security threat and has been identified as such for many years at this point. You don't have to believe [it]," Spanberger said. But, she added, "when the CIA is telling you it does, when the Department of Defense is telling you that it does -- I think perhaps we should listen to them."

PHOTO: Vehicles are submerged in floodwaters along Currier Street in Dearborn Heights, Mich., May 1, 2019.
Vehicles are submerged in floodwaters along Currier Street in Dearborn Heights, Mich., May 1, 2019.
Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP

The 2015 Paris climate accord, agreed to by President Barack Obama, set targets for global greenhouse gas emission reductions aimed and committed signatories to do more to slow the threat of climate change. In 2017, Trump moved to withdraw U.S. participation in the accord by 2020.

The national security implications of climate change are winning the attention of a growing number of Republicans, including several conservative allies of Trump.

"I didn't come to Congress to argue with a thermometer," Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., told ABC News Live. "It seems foolish to deny the obvious signs of climate change."

Gaetz, who has been calling for the elimination of the EPA, voted against Thursday's climate bill, but he says Republicans need to start addressing climate change as a threat to the U.S. military.

"It is a symbolic vote and it won't do anything," he said. "This is just a bad deal."

The measure is dead-on-arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate and would face a veto from Trump, even if it passed. But supporters say the vote sets the stage for the 2020 campaign at a time when many voters have concerns about climate change on their minds.

Gaetz suggested that Republicans should look for common ground with Democrats on the environment, even volunteering that compromise could be reached with liberal firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who authored the Green New Deal.

"I do agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that we need to improve our electric grid," Gaetz said. "I tend to think we're going to have to have everybody working on that together, public and private sector. She views a more public-sector approach. But we share the goal of improving a grid that today leaks dirty energy off of it."

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