Cantor’s Downfall Won’t Push the GOP Rightward on Climate Change”“There’s No More Room

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) makes remarks during a news briefing at the U.S. Captiol March 25, 2010 in Washington, DC. Cantor said that leaders from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have turned threats against Democrats who voted for the health care reform package into a political issue.
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Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
June 11, 2014, 2:23 p.m.

Eric Can­tor’s loss to tea-party in­sur­gent Dave Brat could doom im­mig­ra­tion re­form and fuel the next battle over rais­ing the debt ceil­ing.

But when it comes to cli­mate-change policy, em­bolden­ing the GOP’s con­ser­vat­ive wing won’t push the House right­ward much — if at all. That’s be­cause there’s little room to move any fur­ther in that dir­ec­tion.

Many hot-but­ton is­sues ex­pose fault lines in the GOP. Some Re­pub­lic­ans — backed by the busi­ness com­munity — are open to ac­tion on im­mig­ra­tion-re­form le­gis­la­tion, while swaths of the con­ser­vat­ive base op­pose any­thing that would provide cit­izen­ship to any un­doc­u­mented res­id­ents.

Sim­il­arly, on the debt ceil­ing, the busi­ness lobby has battled GOP con­ser­vat­ives who have res­isted lift­ing the na­tion’s bor­row­ing lim­it, at least without steep White House con­ces­sions.

These big di­vides just aren’t there on car­bon-emis­sions policy. In re­cent years, House Re­pub­lic­ans, backed by the party’s es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures, have voted over­whelm­ingly to nul­li­fy EPA’s power to reg­u­late car­bon emis­sions.

An ar­ray of power­ful busi­ness groups like the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Man­u­fac­tur­ers have backed vari­ous pieces of House GOP le­gis­la­tion to strip or greatly lim­it EPA’s power to curb emis­sions from power plants and factor­ies.

The har­mony between in­dustry goals and con­ser­vat­ives is of­ten present on a range of oth­er en­ergy is­sues, too, though there could be ten­sions over tax cred­its that hard-liners and con­ser­vat­ive ad­vocacy groups want to kill.

The House GOP has voted with unity — and sup­port from busi­ness and in­dustry groups — in re­cent years to lift off­shore-drilling re­stric­tions, kill planned fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion of “frack­ing,” and nul­li­fy vari­ous oth­er EPA and In­teri­or De­part­ment rules.

On the re­lated ques­tion of cli­mate sci­ence, many Re­pub­lic­ans re­ject or strongly ques­tion the sci­entif­ic con­sensus around hu­man-in­duced cli­mate change, but subtle di­vides may be emer­ging.

In late May, House Speak­er John Boehner said EPA’s car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards for power plants would hurt the eco­nomy, but he passed up a chance to at­tack cli­mate sci­ence, in­stead telling re­port­ers: “I’m not qual­i­fied to de­bate the sci­ence.”

But when it comes to op­pos­ing green­house-emis­sions con­trols, House Re­pub­lic­ans speak with one voice.

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