Not a Single Republican Has Mentioned Earth Day in Congress Since 2010

National Journal
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
April 21, 2014, 4:03 p.m.

For years, men­tions of Earth Day have sprung up each April from mem­bers of both parties. In April 2010, Demo­crats spoke of Earth Day over 150 times, mostly in com­mem­or­a­tion of its 40th an­niversary. But no Re­pub­lic­an has uttered the words “Earth Day” on the House or Sen­ate floor since 2010.

The last to do so was Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der of Ten­ness­ee, in sup­port of ex­pand­ing nuc­le­ar-power gen­er­a­tion. “Forty years ago, at the time of the first Earth Day, Amer­ic­ans be­came deeply wor­ried about air and wa­ter pol­lu­tion and a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion that threatened to over­run the plan­et’s re­sources,” reads Al­ex­an­der’s speech. “Nuc­le­ar power was seen as a sa­vior to these en­vir­on­ment­al di­lem­mas.” Eight months later, the melt­down of the Fukushi­ma Daii­chi nuc­le­ar power plant in densely pop­u­lated, nuc­le­ar-de­pend­ent Ja­pan would set off a new wave of en­vir­on­ment­al di­lem­mas.

What ex­plains the ap­par­ent Re­pub­lic­an aver­sion to talk­ing about Earth Day, and Demo­crats’ eager­ness to do so? For one thing, Earth Day was foun­ded 44 years ago by a Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or, Gaylord Nel­son of Wis­con­sin. An­oth­er reas­on is the in­creas­ing po­lar­iz­a­tion of Con­gress. As re­cently as 2000, Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Ben­jamin Gil­man of New York took to the House floor to say, “From com­bat­ing glob­al cli­mate change to pro­tect­ing threatened spe­cies to provid­ing clean wa­ter, we have a duty to act loc­ally and glob­ally to pro­tect the en­vir­on­ment for our present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.” Con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans like Gil­man were rare in the 1990s, but they are seem­ingly ex­tinct today, as over 40 years of vote scores from the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters shows.

Since Earth Day was first cel­eb­rated in 1970, the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters has been scor­ing the votes of mem­bers of Con­gress on en­vir­on­ment­al mat­ters. Over the past 40 years, mem­bers have be­come in­creas­ingly con­cen­trated in­to two camps: high-scor­ing Demo­crats and low-scor­ing Re­pub­lic­ans. But it was not al­ways so.

In 1971, only about a third of all House mem­bers re­ceived scores less than 20 or great­er than 80 on the LCV’s 100-point scale. The oth­er two-thirds fell in between those two poles. But last year, 82 per­cent of mem­bers re­ceived high or low scores. The middle ground, in the past oc­cu­pied largely by mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans and con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats, has mostly dis­ap­peared, a phe­nomen­on that Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s own vote rat­ings also il­lus­trate.

With­in each party, the shifts to the ends of the spec­trum have been dra­mat­ic. In 1971, only 17 per­cent of House Demo­crats re­ceived LCV scores high­er than 80; in 2013, 83 per­cent scored 80 or high­er. Re­pub­lic­ans have moved in the op­pos­ite dir­ec­tion. In 1971, just 16 per­cent of House Re­pub­lic­ans re­ceived scores be­low 20; in 2013, vir­tu­ally the en­tire House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence—97 per­cent—re­ceived LCV scores be­low 20, and most of those Re­pub­lic­ans re­ceived scores be­low 10. No won­der, then, that House and Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans don’t talk much about Earth Day any­more.

LCV En­vir­on­ment­al Score­card by Party
1971-2013

What We're Following See More »
WOULD CUT NON-DEFENSE BY SAME AMOUNT
Trump Budget Would Bump Defense Spending by $54 Billion
0 minute ago
THE DETAILS

"The Trump administration is proposing a budget it says will increase defense spending by $54 billion and cut non-defense spending by the same amount. The White House is sending a topline budget proposal reflecting those figures to federal agencies on Monday afternoon, according to an Office of Management and Budget official." An unnamed OMB official said most federal agencies would face cutbacks.

Source:
WILL THE DINNER HAPPEN?
Trump To Skip Correspondents Dinner
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Saturday that he would not attend the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. The move did not come as a surprise, another moment in his ongoing battle with the media, which he has dubbed the "enemy" of the American people and repeatedly refers to as "fake news." Multiple outlets have already cancelled their events surrounding the dinner and several are considering skipping the event outright.

FOLLOWS ARMY SECRETARY
Navy Secretary Nominee To Withdraw
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Phillip Bilden, Donald Trump's nominee for Navy secretary, has decided to withdraw his nomination after he was unable to sufficiently untangle his financial commitments. Bilden follows Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination for Army secretary.

Source:
FBI TURNED DOWN REQUEST
Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
4 days ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login