WASHINGTON– Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican firebrand who has drawn the ire of liberals during his short tenure in Congress, is picking a fight with the GOP on climate change.
On Wednesday, the two-term lawmaker introduced “a conservative re-imagining” of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) ambitious Green New Deal proposal to combat climate change – and challenged his party to support it.
“I didn’t come to Congress to argue with a thermometer,” Gaetz said at a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building. “I think that more of my colleagues need to realize that the science of global warming is irrefutable.”
History, he warned, will judge Republicans harshly if they don’t take action to address the problem.
The charge may surprise some, given that it comes from a lawmaker who wants to abolish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – on Wednesday he called it an “$8 billion bloated entity.”
Gaetz is also a fierce supporter of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax” and has cast doubt on a report from his own administration warning of its devastating effects.
At the same time, Gaetz is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and represents a district in the state’s western Panhandle that he said is still “above water” — a quip reflecting his strong belief in threats posed by climate change.
One Republican — Florida Rep. Francis Rooney (19th District) – had signed on to Gaetz’s resolution when he introduced it Wednesday, though Gaetz said he expects more colleagues to announce their support soon. No senators currently support the bill, though Gaetz said it includes ideas endorsed by Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
Called the “Green Real Deal” – a play on Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” – Gaetz’s resolution lays out a package of proposals to combat climate change. It includes calls for tax incentives for energy efficient technologies, investments in the nation’s electric grid and in clean energy, deregulating energy markets and opening federal lands to energy development.
Gaetz called it a “love letter” to the American innovator — and mocked what he called Democrats’ regulatory approach to addressing climate change.
“Those Democrats who would use climate change to regulate out of existence the American experience will face the harsh reality that their ideas will fail,” he said.
At the same time, Gaetz said he and Ocasio-Cortez have a lot in common – a point he said he made to the New York Democrat during a House vote Wednesday. “We want to get to the same place: Democratized access to cleaner energy,” he said.
Ocasio-Cortez, however, reportedly slammed Gaetz’s bill, calling it “weak” and “lame” and predicting it would lead to research rather than action. “Where’s the audacity?” she told Newsweek. “Where’s the daring? None of it is there.”