Last week, the House voted on an amendment that stated the following: "Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare."
The amendment was voted down. One Republican - just one - voted to support the amendment. That would be Washington State's Dave Reichert, who represents Seattle's high-tech eastern suburbs.
A few years ago, I arranged for Reichert to receive a briefing on climate science from University of Washington scientists. Don't give me any credit, however. For Reichert, a former homicide detective and county sheriff, facts matter. Ideology must bow to the reality of facts. Too many of Reichert's airy-fairy colleagues on Capitol Hill think the opposite.
So, what was the significance of this vote? Does it mean that congressional Republicans are prone to trafficking in nonsense? Do they believe in unicorns and forest sprites? Do they think that the moon is made of green cheese and that the sun is a ball of bubbling fondue? Do they have maps in their offices emblazoned with the warning "here be dragons" over remote parts of the ocean?
Not necessarily. The vote on the amendment was just another partisan food fight in an institution that a recent Washington Post article likened to an insular, bizarre tribe whose members spend a great deal of time taunting each other.
It didn't help that the amendment was sponsored by California Democrat Henry Waxman, a partisan's partisan who proposed the amendment in a cheeky maneuver to put Republicans on the spot. It also didn't help that the amendment credited the scientific findings to EPA, which holds the central seat of perdition in the Tea Party's imaginary fever swamp of incipient tyranny. I would have credited the findings to the National Academy of Sciences. Give congressional Republicans a chance to vote against Waxman and EPA in one fell swoop, and they're likely to take it, even if the amendment included language praising motherhood, puppies, and lollipops.
It's telling that two of the three Democrats who opposed the amendment have bones to pick with EPA: Minnesota's Collin Peterson, a devoted friend of Big Corn, and West Virginia's Nick Rahall, a coal ally who thinks that blowing up mountains is an economic development strategy.
Still, there is no excuse for Congress to cast its lot with scientific illiteracy for the sake of scoring political points that few outside the Beltway give a rat's patooty about.
The tragedy is that the politicization of climate science has been taken to such extremes. More broadly, partisanship has reached such toxic levels that lawmakers let governing play second fiddle to pandering to all-or-nothing base voters who toss and turn at night, worrying that somewhere, some congressman might agree with a member of the other party.
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