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Pretending to care about climate change has never been so easy for House Republicans

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Matt Gaetz, a freshman congressman from Florida, would like to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Known for attacking the FBI’s Russia probe and inviting a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union, the House Republican earlier last year introduced a one-sentence bill to terminate the EPA. He’s also heralded Trump’s “strong leadership” for the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. So it came as a surprise in November when the House Climate Solutions Caucus welcomed him as a member.

Gaetz may have said two years ago that global warming could also be naturally caused, but when asked recently about his views, he explained, “I think history will judge very harshly those who are climate deniers.” Yet even now, having admitted humans play a significant role in climate change, he stops short of backing action that science shows is needed to contain the process. And that includes policies favored by some Republicans, like a revenue-neutral tax on carbon pollution, which he says “will merely export our pollution to other countries.”

It turns out, despite its name, the Climate Solutions Caucus is a hospitable place for many members who, like Gaetz, do not seem especially concerned about global warming. The two-year-old caucus has expanded to 70 members, half of whom are Republican — and many of them have brought controversial records and a questionable commitment to advancing legislation in Congress that would protect the environment.

Its critics charge the caucus has expanded its size at the expense of its credibility, providing Republicans who have been actively hostile to government programs a low-stakes opportunity to “greenwash” their climate credentials without backing meaningful action — just in time for midterm elections. In fact, many members may be vulnerable in the 2018 cycle; 24 of the 35 Republican members’ districts will be competitive races, according to an analysis of The Cook Political Report. Republicans in these races could benefit from distancing themselves from Trump’s climate change denial.

“They are finding an easy action to get a green badge or a line on their resumes,” says Melinda Pierce, legislative director of the Sierra Club.

Before the 2016 election, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an independent advocacy group, found two Florida congressman — Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Carlos Curbelo — and persuaded them to form a bipartisan caucus focused on global warming. The group had worked since 2014 to find a willing Republican partner. (The idea grew out of the group’s attempt to form such a caucus among Florida representatives.) Unlike congressional caucuses that draw their members mostly or entirely from one party, Climate Solutions follows a “Noah’s Ark” model in which a Democrat could only join if a Republican does too. As the caucus gained traction, they’ve met a few times, occasionally circulating a letter for lawmakers to sign onto (with limited success), and held their first public meeting in 2017 on the coastal impacts of climate change.

A half-dozen Democrats and Republicans were members at the beginning, but it’s expanded faster as the midterm election draws near. Republicans in more moderate districts will have to defend seats where the president has historically low approval ratings. Today, a long list of Democrats are waiting to join the caucus, but all Republicans are welcome. New members aren’t subscribing to any particular set of principles — other than (hopefully) the view that climate change is not a hoax — given the deliberately vague mission of the caucus to educate members of Congress on climate risk and explore policy options around climate change. Meanwhile, Citizens’ Climate Lobby continues to play a role in getting Republicans on board, by lobbying members and finding supporters for action in their districts.

Consider the changes that caucus founder Curbelo has seen since he arrived in the House in 2015. He’s a moderate Republican representing a competitive district in Miami, one of the parts of the country most threatened by sea-level rise (another GOP Miami representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is a member of the caucus and the GOP mayor of Miami is vocal on climate). Curbelo told Yale Environment 360 in late January that expanding the tent on climate change is significant progress on the issue, compared to when “maybe two or three Republicans” were talking about it in 2015.

When Florida’s Matt Gaetz joined the caucus, RL Miller, head of the Climate Hawks Vote super PAC that seeks to elect climate activists to Congress, took notice. “I started taking a very hard look, realizing not only were they not producing anything in the way of a bill beyond press releases,” Miller says. “Their voting patterns were really no different from voting patterns of Republicans outside the caucus.” She has taken to calling Climate Solutions the “Peacock Caucus,” for providing cover to Republicans who face competitive election cycles but don’t intend to do anything on climate.

After Trump’s announcement he would exit the Paris climate agreement, Miller says at least four Republicans applauded his move, while just six of the 22 Republican members actively condemned it. Gaetz was a Trump supporter; Representative Claudia Tenney, a New York Republican, called it a “good sign of leadership” in an interview with Syracuse.com; and Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado followed Trump’s lead by arguing for a “renegotiated climate treaty, ratified by the United States Senate, to continue our nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” There were other bills the House passed in 2017 that took aim at federal climate initiatives, and caucus members generally voted along party lines. One prohibits the government’s use of the social cost of carbon for calculating the benefits of climate regulation, another prevents EPA regulation of methane emissions on public lands, and a third prevents the EPA from using certain air pollution public health data in scientific studies. Some members, including Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, voted for all of them.

When it comes to proactive policy with Republican support, the caucus has done virtually nothing. Critics and supporters of the caucus have wondered when they will see a carbon pricing bill — a cost applied to carbon pollution to encourage reducing greenhouse gas emissions — that could draw any Republican cosponsors. During the debate on tax reform, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted an op-ed by conservative economists that called on Republicans to pass a carbon tax as part of their bill — an option no one took. Two Democrats have introduced their own versions of a price on carbon that have attracted no Republican cosponsors. In November, caucus member Connecticut Representative John Larson also introduced his own carbon pricing bill backed by 16 other Democrats but no Republican fellow caucus members. Curbelo has expressed support for a revenue-neutral price on carbon, though it’s unclear whether he will introduce a bill.

Curbelo’s office declined an interview, but a spokesperson pointed to the Yale Environment 360 interview in which he didn’t mention the chances of a carbon pricing bill coming in 2018. Curbelo didn’t make such a bill seem likely this year, suggesting that the caucus instead should move to the “blocking and tackling phase where we try to take on anti-climate legislation.”

One of the few bills that has garnered any Republican support was one last May that created a bipartisan commission to study possible policies to address climate change — hardly a move towards cutting carbon emissions.

At least one congressman has used his membership to defend his stance on climate change as he campaigns for reelection in a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016. The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, gives Representative Steve Knight, a Republican from California, a zero percent lifetime rating for his votes on environmental and energy issues. In 2015, he backed a bill to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which limits emissions from power plants. But a spokesperson for Knight pointed to his membership in the caucus to counter his Democratic opponents’ charges that he is a “climate change denier.”

“Most people, and probably every scientist, would conclude based on that piece of evidence that he is not a climate change denier,” the spokesperson emailed Mother Jones.

In January, the caucus gained arguably its most powerful addition yet, former Energy and Commerce Chair Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. Upton, who has served in Congress for more than three decades, grew more conservative on energy with the Tea Party wave, and once challenged the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. More recently, he’s supported drilling in the Arctic and opposed the Clean Power Plan. Even so, he represents a new trend among Republicans that involves moderating their rhetoric on climate change, without coming any closer to actions addressing it as a real problem. Blunt climate denial, like the president’s, has become increasingly unpopular and out of fashion.

For some Democrats, having new willing partners after years of stalled talk is “really encouraging,” says caucus member Representative Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, who recently introduced a revenue-neutral carbon tax that only Democrats supported. “It could provide some cover for Republicans in toss-up seats but that’s a fair price to have Republicans willing to be publicly identified with addressing climate change. I don’t think we should be cynical about every one of them.”

When asked why he joined the caucus, New York Republican Representative Lee Zeldin, in an emailed comment, talked about natural resources but not climate change specifically. All Americans, “should have access to clean air and clean water,” he wrote, and he will continue “to protect our natural treasures” through the Climate Solutions Caucus. Freshman Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said in an email via his spokesperson that humans are a contributing factor to climate change. “[L]eaders on both sides of the aisle must take serious and reasonable steps to combat climate change,” he wrote in response to why he joined the caucus. “This isn’t about party. That’s the kind of thinking we need. And it’s that pragmatism that pushed me to join the Climate Solutions Caucus on my first day in office. Fitzpatrick is one of the Republican members who has been committed to the issue, cosponsoring a nonbinding resolution promoting climate action. Citizens’ Climate Lobby named him the 2017 recipient of its Climate Leadership Award.

Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a conservative group that advocates for climate solutions, suggests that the wide range of ideologies actually improve the chance the caucus can advance legislation. “Like many caucuses it would be most effective if it can find common ground between people who are very far apart on a lot of things,” says Lehrer. “It’s obviously yet to produce anything major, but a caucus that is ideologically homogeneous is probably not going to do much good. A very diverse one has a better chance to produce something that could be a breakthrough eventually.”

If members of the caucus were to vote together alongside Democrats in the House, they could certainly block some of the worst deregulatory bills and budget cuts coming out of Congress. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, several caucus members have voted in ways that contradict the caucus’s mission: In December, the Senate version of a federal tax bill included opening up 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. Eight Republican caucus members signed a letter asking the Senate to protect the wildlife refuge. But when the House voted on the budget bill, all but six of the 31 Republican caucus members, including Curbelo, voted for it anyway.

Even Deutch acknowledges there are members of the caucus who have been “rightly criticized by the environmental community.” But he adds, “The goals of the caucus don’t change when members act in ways that are inconsistent with what we are trying to do. It’s not for the caucus to have to defend the actions of individual members.”

There was one show of strength last year where Republican members played a key role in blocking an amendment that would have removed a requirement for the Department of Defense to study the threats posed by climate change. Last July, 46 House Republicans, including all but two of the 24 Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, sided with Democrats to stop the amendment.

Sierra Club’s Pierce says the formation of the caucus is a “baby step” toward climate solutions. But she says caucus members haven’t taken enough actions to back up their words. “We just want to encourage them to take off the training wheels and actually ride the bike,” she says.

There’s one more argument for Republicans to advance climate legislation now — if Democrats retake Congress, especially by large margins, they would have the opportunity to debate more liberal climate policies. Lehrer thinks a price on carbon is inevitable, and conservatives won’t always be in the driver’s seat. “I think in the long term it’s actually close to inevitable that it will pass one way or another,” he says. “It will be imposed in a way conservatives like me will not like — by Democrats — or it will be done in a way that forwards conservative goals. I like the latter.”

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Pretending to care about climate change has never been so easy for House Republicans

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La Niña is here, so 2017 won’t be the warmest year on record.

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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La Niña is here, so 2017 won’t be the warmest year on record.

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The coal industry is still declining, so Trump is considering a bailout.

According to a new study from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the current presidential administration has collected fewer civil penalties and filed fewer environmental enforcement suits against polluting companies than the Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations did at the same point in office.

The analysis assesses agreements made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement cases. For abuses under laws like the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, a drop of 60 percent from the average of the other administrations. Trump’s EPA has lodged 26 environmental lawsuits compared to 31, 34, and 45 by Bush, Obama, and Clinton, respectively.

The marked decrease in enforcement likely has to do with the EPA’s deregulatory agenda. Since confirmed, administrator Scott Pruitt has systematically tried to knock out key environmental regulations, especially those created during Obama’s tenure.

The Project notes that its assessment is only of a six-month period, so future enforcement could catch Trump up to his predecessors. Or he’ll continue to look the other way.

“I’ve seen the pendulum swing,” said Bruce Buckheit, who worked in EPA enforcement under Clinton and then Bush, “but never as far as what appears to be going on today.”

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The coal industry is still declining, so Trump is considering a bailout.

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The Blue-Slip Rule Is On Its Last Legs

Mother Jones

The Washington Post confirms what we’ve already heard about Senate Republicans doing away with the blue-slip rule:

Leaders are considering a change to the Senate’s “blue slip” practice, which holds that judicial nominations will not proceed unless the nominee’s home-state senators signal their consent to the Senate Judiciary Committee….Removing the blue-slip obstacle would make it much easier for Trump’s choices to be confirmed. Although Trump and Senate Republicans have clashed early in his presidency, they agree on the importance of putting conservatives on the federal bench.

….The Senate acted Thursday on Trump’s first appeals-court nomination, elevating U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar of Kentucky to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

….“Eliminating the blue slip is essentially a move to end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees, allowing nominees to be hand-picked by right-wing groups,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a memo this week. She pointed out that the vacancy for which Thapar is nominated exists only because McConnell refused to return a blue slip for Obama’s nominee, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes. The seat has been vacant since 2013, and Tabor Hughes never received a hearing, because blue slips were not returned.

Christopher Kang, who advised Obama on judicial nominations, said that was the reason 17 of the president’s picks did not receive hearings, killing the nominations. But the impact was even greater than that, because Obama gave up on trying to find nominees in some states, such as Texas, with two Republican senators. One vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, has been open for five years.

Were Republicans snickering in private for six years because Democrats continued to be Boy Scouts during the Obama presidency, respecting the blue-slip rule despite blanket Republican opposition of the kind that Republicans now say will prompt them to kill it? Probably. Was it the right thing to do anyway? I guess I’m still unsure. But it sure doesn’t look like it.

The Brookings table above shows the effect of all this for circuit court vacancies. The absolute numbers aren’t huge, but both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama simply gave up nominating judges in states where there were any Republican senators. They would object as a matter of course and their objections would be honored. George Bush, by contrast, continued nominating judges everywhere. Democratic senators sometimes objected, but not always—and Republicans often ignored their objections anyway when they controlled the Senate.

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The Blue-Slip Rule Is On Its Last Legs

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There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party.

Mother Jones

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Following the explosive report that President Donald Trump leaned on then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn—and the explosive report that Trump’s transition team knew Flynn was under FBI investigation when Trump tapped him to be his top national security aide—an increasing number of congressional Republicans have begun to accept the need for full-scale investigations along with the appointment of Robert Mueller as the new special counsel to examine the Trump-Russia affair. But party leaders have not reached the point where they are willing to truly confront the scandal-plagued president. The GOP establishment can’t and won’t thoroughly challenge Trump over the assorted controversies brewing within his chaotic administration. To do so would risk a nuclear civil war that could blow their party to smithereens.

Ever since Trump moved into the White House, liberals (and others) have plaintively asked, why aren’t Republicans fiercely investigating Trump and his crew and seeking to hold them accountable for various instances of improbity? There’s been plenty to choose from: the Trump-Russia scandal, the smorgasbord of financial conflicts of interests involving Trump and his family members in and out of government, other possible ethics violations (including nepotistic hiring), the ever-widening Michael Flynn affair, and so on. In the wake of Trump’s firing of Comey, the guy in charge of a FBI investigation that could land on Trump’s doorstep, and the subsequent report (denied by the White House) that Trump pressured Comey on Flynn, some GOPers on Capitol Hill have gently called for probes into these matters. But by and large, Republican leaders have not dared to take on Trump vigorously. “The last thing I’m going to do is pre-judge anything,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday.

One reason Republicans have been reticent to criticize Trump is obvious: they care more about working with—that is, using—Trump to attain their most beloved policy desires: generous tax breaks for the wealthy, draconian budget cuts for government programs (including those that assist low- and middle-income Americans), and the repeal-and-replace-or-whatever of Obamacare. But there’s a related reason: if congressional Republicans were to challenge Trump in forceful fashion, it could destroy the GOP.

Pop quiz: who’s the most vengeful politician on the scene today? Yes, it’s Trump. As I reported before Election Day, Trump is completely obsessed with revenge. For years, Trump often said in paid speeches that a key to success is that you have to be a merciless SOB when dealing with foes. Here’s how he spelled it out: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.” Another time, he elaborated:

One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit ’em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You’ve got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can’t take advantage of you. It’s not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I’ve done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, “Well, let’s leave Trump alone,” or “Let’s leave this one,” or “Doris, let’s leave her alone. They fight too hard.” I say it, and it’s so important. You have to, you have to hit back. You have to hit back.

With the president showing signs of narcissism and paranoia—on Tuesday, he declared, “No politician in history…has been treated worse or more unfairly” than he has been—Republican politicians who dare to confront Trump can expect to be targeted and mowed down by Trump.

Prior to the recent Comey and Flynn controversies, many GOPers were scared of Trump. A House Democrat a few weeks ago told me of a conversation he had with a Republican colleague whom he was close to persuading to sponsor a piece of legislation that would likely be popular in the GOPer’s district but not fancied by the Trump White House. “I just can’t do it,” the Republican finally admitted to the Democrat. “He’ll come after me on Twitter.” The wrath of Trump was something this Republican feared deeply—just over a policy disagreement.

Imagine if Republicans squared off against Trump regarding a matter involving his integrity—or one that could pose an existential threat to his presidency. (Examining the Comey issues as possible acts of obstruction of justice could well lead to the question of impeachment.) Trump certainly would not consider such action kindly. And if he were going to screw them back 10 times as hard, what would that mean for congressional Republicans?

It would be quite improbable that a raging and revenge-seeking Trump would be able to collaborate with Republicans on legislative priorities. What would be more important for Trump: working with Republicans to achieve tax reform or extracting payback?

If the going gets tougher, Trump will insist on fealty from his fellow Republicans. Yet if some opt to join the forces of investigation, a dividing line would be created within the party: you’re with Trump, or you’re not. Of course, Trump and his minions would be keeping score. During the the first and chaotic effort of House Republicans to gut Obamacare, the Trump White House considered compiling an enemies list of those GOPers who opposed the Trump-backed bill. Republicans who threatened his presidency could expect much worse than being placed on a roster of unfriendlies.

This is far more than an inside-Washington affair. Trump’s base is the party’s base. Despite all the screw-ups, false assertions, broken promises, and flip-flops of Trump’s still young (but exhausting) presidency, he remains hugely popular among Republicans—84 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump in the latest Gallup poll—who presumably buy his “fake news” attacks on media reports that cast him as an autocratic, truth-challenged, and bumbling president. If Republicans on Capitol Hill turn against Trump they could well encounter the fury of their most dependable voters. In the fight for the soul of the party, could GOP leaders (Washington insiders!) best the demagogic Trump? Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Paul Ryan would be no match for him. The idea of a President Pence would likely be little consolation for the base during a clash between Republicans and Trump.

The Republican establishment has already demonstrated that political calculations, not principles, are its driving force. And one calculation is easy to process: if the GOP breaks rank with Trump on any of these scandals, there will be no turning back. An irate (and irrational?) Trump would demand retribution. A base already suspicious of GOP insiders could become furious. Tax cuts and the like would be at risk. The party itself would be endangered. Of course, as is so often noted, if the Republicans start to feel Trump-related electoral pain—say, they lose one of the upcoming special House elections in GOP-leaning districts—they might reevaluate their situational loyalty to Trump. But the smart ones know the costs of such a course—even if necessary for survival—could be exceedingly high.

There is no good answer for congressional Republicans facing the dilemma of what to do about Trump. They long ago decided to lash themselves to a man with a decades-long record of dishonesty, arrogance, bullying, sleazy deal-making, and score-settling. There are no easy escape routes. No convenient off-ramps. No lifeboats on this ship. He made the bed, and they leaped into it. (Oh, Donald!) Now they’re screwed. The old cliché is that you don’t go after the king unless you can kill the king. But for Republicans, the situation is worse that that: it may not be possible for them to battle their king without razing their kingdom.

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There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party.

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Trump Defends Decision to Fire Comey and Accuses Democrats of Hypocrisy

Mother Jones

In a series of early morning tweets Wednesday, President Donald Trump angrily defended his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, taking aim at Democrats for criticizing the stunning development.

Trump’s response comes hours after he similarly railed against Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), after the Senate Minority Leader appeared to suggest the White House was orchestrating a cover-up by firing the man charged with leading an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by Trump associates.

Trump’s stated justification for the firing, which cites Comey’s unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton, has been lambasted by Democrats. After all, Trump frequently praised Comey’s actions, saying it “took guts” to reopen the bureau’s probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server less than two weeks before the election. And as recently as last month, the president indicated he supported the former director.

According to reports, however, Trump had been increasingly furious over the ongoing investigations into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia and what he saw as Comey’s failure to defend him.

Dozens of lawmakers, including some Republicans, are now calling for an independent prosecutor to move forward with the probe.

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Trump Defends Decision to Fire Comey and Accuses Democrats of Hypocrisy

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The Times is now publishing climate denial. Scientists are not having it.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times took on Bret Stephens — who once called climate change an “imaginary” problem — as an op-ed columnist in an effort to reflect more political perspectives.

His first column came out on Friday, and — surprise — it casts doubt on the certainty of the scientific consensus on climate.

Previously, while some readers had threatened to cancel their subscriptions as a result of his controversial stances on science, Muslims, and campus rape, “relatively few” had done so, wrote Liz Spayd, the Times’ public editor.

The backlash to Spayd’s piece was real. Climatologist Michael Mann canceled his subscription and started the Twitter hashtag #ShowYourCancellation.

“There is no left-leaning or right-leaning climate science, just as there is no Democrat or Republican theory of gravity,” wrote Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in his cancellation letter.

Other scientists joined in:

James Bennet, the paper’s editorial page editor, defended the decision to hire Stephens. We shouldn’t ignore the perspective of the “millions of people who agree with him,” he told HuffPost.

Well, yes — but millions of people have been wrong before. That doesn’t mean alternative facts should be given a platform.

Now that Stephens’ first piece is up, we’ll see if more cancellations follow.

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The Times is now publishing climate denial. Scientists are not having it.

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Evening Garbage Roundup

Mother Jones

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Apropos of my previous post, Natasha Bertrand points out that at the exact same time the Russian RISS think tank recommended a messaging change to focus on voter fraud, Donald Trump suddenly started talking about “rigged elections.” I’m sure it was just a coincidence:

And there’s also this about Jon Ossoff’s near-victory in Georgia last night:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in an interview Tuesday in Louisville, Ky., said he didn’t know much about Mr. Ossoff, a 30-year-old former House staffer. Mr. Sanders said he isn’t prepared to back Democrats just because of a party label. “If you run as a Democrat, you’re a Democrat,” he said. “Some Democrats are progressive and some Democrats are not.”

Asked if Mr. Ossoff is a progressive, Mr. Sanders, an independent who challenged Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary, demurred. “I don’t know,” he said.

I know how touchy this subject is, but come on. Ossoff is obviously no fire breather, but he’s been the center of progressive attention for weeks now. Would it kill Sanders to spend a few minutes learning who he is and what he’s about—and whether that’s good enough for an endorsement? If Sanders wants to be a party leader—and he’s given every indication that he does—he needs to pay more attention to this stuff. He can start here.

UPDATE: There were originally three items in this post. The third one was a tweet about something Mike Huckabee said, but the tweet has since been deleted because it misrepresented Huckabee’s comment. I’ve deleted the reference to it.

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Evening Garbage Roundup

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Jon Ossoff Does Well in Georgia 6th, But Still Headed for a Runoff

Mother Jones

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Most of the votes in the Georgia 6th congressional district special election have been counted, and Democrat Jon Ossoff is headed to a runoff after failing to win more than half the vote. But he came close! And it just goes to show what a good candidate could have done in the presidential election. It’s too bad Democrats were stuck with Hillary Clinton, who ran such a terrible campaign and got stomped.

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Jon Ossoff Does Well in Georgia 6th, But Still Headed for a Runoff

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This Climate Denying Lawmaker Has Proposed a Bill to Protect Climate Deniers

Mother Jones

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A Maine lawmaker has introduced a bill that will safeguard political speech—with a special focus on climate change deniers.

Republican Rep. Lawrence Lockman, who told the Associated Press that whether or not human activity is causing global warming is an open question, proposed legislation that would ban the state from prosecuting people for their “climate change policy preferences.” The measure prohibits the state from discriminating against climate change deniers with respect to employment and hiring, and bars any state agencies or departments from refusing to purchase goods and services, or awarding grants and contracts, on the basis of a person’s opinion regarding climate change.

According to NASA, 97 percent of scientists acknowledge that our planet is getting warmer due to human activity.

The bill is in response the lawsuit filed by a group of state attorneys general, including Maine’s Janet Mills, against Exxon Mobil in 2016. The suit alleges that the oil giant misled the public about global warming and should pay a financial penalty.

Lockman told the Associated Press that the bill wasn’t just for climate deniers, because it would protect the free speech of others as well. “I don’t want to see a Republican attorney general issuing subpoenas for the records of progressive or liberal think tanks or public policy groups to chill their free speech,” he said.

But Democratic lawmakers do not seem convinced. Lois Galgay Reckitt, a Democrat in the state legislature, said that the entire Democratic caucus would oppose the bill, as would some Republicans.

“The issue for me is I’m a scientist and I live near the ocean,” she said to the Associated Press. “It’s absolutely clear to me that climate change is happening and it worries me. I will fight this tooth and nail.”

A public hearing is scheduled for April 6.

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This Climate Denying Lawmaker Has Proposed a Bill to Protect Climate Deniers

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