Long before presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars and the Capitol Hill press corps obsessed daily over who’s up and who’s down, Congress worked together to resolve controversial national issues.
For example, from May to September 1972, Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives and Senate held 40 meetings to hammer out legislation to address America’s growing problem with water pollution. Forty.
Finally, a deal was struck in mid-September and quickly brought to both chambers for a vote Oct. 4.
The House passed what became known as the Clean Water Act of 1972 by a wide, bipartisan margin, 366-11. The Senate vote was even more overwhelming, astonishing 74-0.
But President Richard Nixon, a proponent of the original legislation, vetoed the long-in-coming new law because, he said, its total cost would be four times more than his opening proposal. He signed his veto Oct. 17.
Congress wanted no part of Nixon’s cheapskate, we’ll-do-more-later approach to clean up the nation’s water.
On Oct. 18 — before the White House ink had dried on the veto — the House overrode Nixon’s action by a still wide 247-23 bipartisan margin. The Senate agreed with the House and vetoed the veto 52-12. The Clean Water Act became law.
Can anyone but the sunniest Pollyanna see today’s House and Senate — or even more impossible, just GOP House members — agreeing on what day of the week it is, let alone complex, perhaps career-costing legislation that tackles crucial issues affecting our nation’s, and therefore every citizen’s, future? Me neither.
But that reality won’t keep House members from wasting more time and taxpayers’ money on messaging bills — bills to help their campaigns, not their constituents and not the nation — as their 11 precious days in Washington this month melt away.
Case in point: “Republicans who lead the House Financial Services Committee plan to spend the next few weeks holding hearings and voting on bills designed to send a clear signal: Corporations, in particular big investment managers, should think twice about integrating climate and social goals into their business plans,” reported Politico July 10.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has already done the critical thinking here and it stands by its proposal that publicly traded companies should be required to “include certain climate-related disclosures” that “are reasonably likely to have a material impact on their business” to both shareholders and the consuming public.
Climate deniers — the few who are left — despise any disclosure proposal and claim it will drive up the cost of goods and services while presenting an unfair, if unflattering, portrait of any business forced to come clean.
Farm groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation have joined the deniers’ chorus, suggesting a farmer’s “obligations through their regulated customers could be enormous.”
AFBF does admit, however, that it doesn’t know how that might happen since “farmers and ranchers are not public companies and therefore not ‘registrants’ that are required to report directly to the SEC.”
Moreover, since no SEC disclosure rule is in place, cost estimates at this fluid stage are just a guess.
Still, few climate-skeptic politicians have risen to defend climate deniers’ claims — and not because it’s really bad science, but because it’s really bad politics.
Polls consistently indicate that 75% of all Americans believe climate change is real while only 10% claim it isn’t. Even the most rockheaded, anti-climate-change politician can noodle out that voter math.
Climate deniers can, too, so many have a new tactic: drop denial and pivot to delay. Do everything to stall any action that might mitigate climate change.
Like, say, call the House Financial Services Committee to order in the middle of July to waste time — your time, their time and the little time left to take meaningful action against climate change — to, if not get their way, keep the other 75% of the public from getting what they want and their children and grandchildren need.
Today, the science over climate change, like the science over dirty water in the early 1970s, isn’t even part of the debate; it’s a done deal and most everyone agrees.
Everyone except Congress, that is.