Republicans moved to shut down a climate hearing with a procedural move that was guaranteed to fail.
Republicans in Congress have routinely criticized Democrats for neglecting legislation in favor of impeachment proceedings against President Trump. But one stunt that got little attention shows how Republicans tried to block actual legislating in favor of focusing on impeachment.
While his state is going up in literal flames, California Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda led a subcommittee hearing last month to conduct oversight on a White House effort to unwind Obama-era clean car rules. Some analysts say the move could be the biggest climate rule rollback of the Trump administration so far. It also threatens California’s efforts to set up their own more stringent vehicle standards, something experts argue could help decrease the historic number wildfires that have ripped through the state in the past two years.
But chaos ensued in the typically-low drama committee just moments after Rouda delivered his opening remarks. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) called for a vote to adjourn the hearing, arguing that some Republicans on the committee also wanted to participate in impeachment witness interviews that were happening at the same time.
Rouda said he had attended many of the impeachment witness depositions, and hadn’t seen many Republican members who were now complaining actually in attendance. Suddenly when there’s a hearing about climate change, he suggested, Republicans had to go.
Not interested in shutting down the committee’s work and sending Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and former Calfornia Gov. Jerry Brown, who had been invited as witnesses, home, Rouda delayed until enough Democrats could show up to vote down the motion to adjourn.
As the clock ticked, Republican members, led by the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Jim Jordan, began to lob complaints Rouda’s way.
They claimed they were being held hostage and accused Rouda of making the rules up as he went along. Rouda, in turn, accused Republicans of being fixated on impeachment.
“No one’s making you wait, you are more than welcome to leave at any time,” Rouda replied. “In eight years the Democratic minority has never tried to interrupt a hearing like this, and here you are pulling a stunt,” he said.
“It’s not a stunt, it’s a privileged motion,” Jordan quipped back.
“I know there’s a strong desire on your part not to have the facts come to light, but this committee will proceed in short order once the staff is ready,” Rouda said over more crosstalk.
At one point, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined the fray.
“I try not to get out of my job at every opportunity,” she said. “We’re here to talk about the very pressing issue of cutting our carbon emissions and saving our planet, and we have an entire political party that’s trying to get out of their job, adjourn this hearing.”
About half an hour later, the clerk arrived to take the roll. The motion was defeated — a veritable guarantee, since Democrats have a majority in the House and one each committee.
Republicans have had better luck crashing other meetings this year, though. In February, they managed to shut down a separate hearing on climate change.
But Rouda, who has made climate action a top priority in his first term, did not let it happen again. After the vote, he pivoted back to business.
Witnesses criticized the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back clean car rules, calling it nothing more than another attempt by the oil industry to block climate action.
After the hearing, Rouda repeated his vow regarding his committee work: “The subcommittee’s work to conduct rigorous and responsible oversight of the Trump Administration’s environmental abuses will continue because that is our constitutional duty,” he said in a statement.