New Database Sheds Light on Anti-Environment Congress as Attacks on Public Protections Continue

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, unveiled on Monday a database of anti-environment votes by the 112th Congress. According to the minority page of the Committee's website, "the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress" has voted 125 times "to block action to address climate change, to halt efforts to reduce air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in other ways." The votes are searchable by legislation, topic, statute, or agency, and the database provides the American people with information about each bill or amendment, including a summary, the sponsoring member, and the outcome of the final vote.

The 125 anti-environment votes include 31 to block actions to prevent air and water pollution, 33 to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas (including funding cuts), and 20 to block actions to address climate change, according to information compiled by the committee’s Democratic minority staff. Unsurprisingly, the votes fell largely along party lines. A staff summary of the votes finds that, on average, 96 percent of Republicans voted anti-environment, while 84 percent of Democrats took the pro-environment position.

Included in the database are votes on the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill (H.R. 2584) taken on or before July 28. The appropriations bill, which has been called "one of the most extreme attacks on our environment and public health in modern history," made it to the House floor in July with 39 policy riders that would hamper efforts to protect our health, air, water, and wildlife. The floor vote on H.R. 2584 is expected to resume this month.

The database launch comes just before the majority plans to continue a slew of legislative attacks on environmental regulations, including Clean Air Act rules that are expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths and produce billions of dollars in benefits annually. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has become a favorite target for some members of Congress, despite evidence showing that environmental regulations save lives, produce economic benefits that outweigh their costs, and can prompt job creation.

The new database does not give an in-depth analysis of each bill’s impact on public health and the environment, but it does help viewers understand the magnitude of Congress’ anti-environment movement. It also provides the public with a one-stop-shop for viewing bills and amendments that would undermine crucial protections and identifying which members of Congress are responsible. As the contentious debate over environmental regulations draws out, let’s hope efforts like these continue and that we do not allow our public protections to be destroyed without a fight.

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