Why are These Democrats Joining Republicans in Right-Wing Messaging Amendments?

This past week, the US House debated and voted on the COMPETES (America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength) Act, a bill focused on economic and geopolitical competition with China, subsidizing the US semiconductor industry (among others) and ratcheting up military activities in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the debate, Republicans put forward several amendments designed less for actual policy purposes than to push conservative messaging on the Biden administration and climate action. And too many Democrats joined them.

Take for example the amendment from Stephanie Bice (OK-05) to require the the Director of the National Science Foundation to commission a study to measure the economic impact of inflation on cost-of-living, the American workforce, American international competitiveness, and rural and underserved communities.

This amendment is merely an attempt to elevate “inflation” as in issue and the negative media aura that surrounds it, with its resulting impact on Biden’s poll numbers. There is no interest in actually having a study or even in actually fighting the root causes of inflation.

But it passed 279 to 153, with 207 Republicans and 72 Democrats voting in favor and 149 Democrats and 4 Republicans voting against it.

Similarly, while China has indeed become the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, when Republicans who oppose robust climate action here in the US talk about the need for China to be more aggressive at combating climate change, it is clearly just a means of deflection rather than serious engagement with the climate crisis.

Republican Michelle Steel (CA-48), who has an atrocious environmental record, introduced an amendment to require the Chinese Communist Party to match emission cutting targets established by the United States. It passed 265 to 166, with 65 Democrats and 200 Republicans voting for it and 156 Democrats and 11 Republicans voting against.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the 265 supporters of this amendment to see how many of them support bold action here in the US and co-sponsored Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution. Out of 265, the number was a mere 17: Boyle, Cicilline, Cohen, Courtney, DeFazio, Escobar, Eshoo, Garamendi, Khanna, Maloney, Mfume, Neguse, Panetta, Quigley, Schakowsky, Schiff, and Suozzi.

Republican Dan Crenshaw (TX-02), who has argued that the solution to climate change is digging for more oil and gas, filed an amendment to require the Department of State to provide an annual briefing to Congress on China’s progress and efforts to meet emission goals and commitments.

It passed 264 to 163, with 194 Republicans and 70 Democrats voting in favor and 150 Democrats and 13 Republican voted against. One wonders how many of them are actually interested in such a briefing, at least beyond seeing it as a tool to justify the US’s own inaction.

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Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.

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Jonathan Cohn

Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.

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