Bucking Trump, Pa. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick votes with Dems on bill supporting Paris climate accords

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Thursday approved legislation that would force the administration to remain in the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s plans to exit the pact.

The bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., passed largely along party lines by a vote of 231-190. Three Republicans broke ranks to support the measure:

Sticking to his contrarian ways, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents the Bucks County-based 1st Congressional District, joined two other Republicans: U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik, of New York, and Vern Buchanan, to vote in favor of the bill.

Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent and brother to ex-U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who held the seat for three terms before his retirement in 2016. As Roll Call reports, Brian Fitzpatrick’s seat was just one three GOP districts carried by Hillary Clinton.

That’s made Fitzpatrick a target for Democrats in 2020, and his seat is rated “Tilt Republican,” by the handicapping newsletter Inside Elections, Roll Call reported.

Thursday’s vote is a largely a symbolic rebuke to Trump, who announced in 2017 that he’d withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris accord the Obama administration helped broker in 2015.

Trump said in a 2017 Rose Garden speech, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” He added, “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

But despite his declaration, Trump can’t formally withdraw from the deal until Nov. 4, 2020, which happens to be the day after the next U.S. presidential election.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has announced that climate change will be among her top priorities this Congress. She set up a new special committee on climate change earlier this year, putting Castor at the helm.

The “climate crisis is an existential threat of our generation, of our time, a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions,” Pelosi said at a press conference announcing Castor’s legislation. She called the bill “step one” on the issue.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have blasted the effort as a waste of time, given that it stands virtually no chance of passing the GOP-led Senate or winning Trump’s support.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said in an interview earlier this week that he intended to oppose the measure “because the Paris accord was a bad deal.”

Gaetz, who has offered a GOP alternative to Democrats’ Green New Deal, said, “Just because I believe in the science of climate change and that we ought to have an approach to solve it doesn’t mean that we should enter into an agreement that requires the United States to plow in a bunch of upfront cash with very little ability to claw that back if other nations aren’t meeting carbon reduction goals.”

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