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100 Degree Days, Wildfires … to Congressional Republicans, Nothing to See Here

You’d think the connection between the weather and climate change would be obvious. But you haven’t discussed the matter with Republicans in Congress.

Ted Cruz
Shuran Huang for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Ted Cruz is feeling the heat.

Triple-digit heat indices continued from California to Florida as House Republicans returned to Capitol Hill from their recent recess to advance a proposal to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 39 percent. The agency enforces environmental regulations the GOP is obsessed with gutting on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, which, combined, has spent over $100 million on lobbying annually since 2008, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets. Last year, Republicans received nearly five times as much as Democrats in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.

The New Republic asked congressional Republicans if they were troubled by the heat wave. General response? Not so much.

“Not really,” said Representative Tim Burchett, a Freedom Caucus member from Tennessee. “It’s just hot and miserable this time of year, plus it’s been raining a lot,” he said, attributing the weather to “kind of a ‘huma-did-diddy,’ as we say.” Whatever that means.

Representative Anna Paulina Luna echoed Burchett when asked if she’d heard from constituents about the heat. “No,” she replied. “It’s always hot in Florida, so we’re used to it,” she said.

“Only in Washington will they try to find an excuse to take something that’s been going on for hundreds of years … to promote their crazy left agenda,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, bristling at the suggestion that man-made climate change might be behind the heat dome. “Southern Louisiana, it’s always hot,” he said. “Thank God for air conditioning,” laughed Scalise, perhaps unaware that incarcerated juveniles in his state’s Angola Prison are reporting temperatures as high as 132 degrees, according to an emergency filing last Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The question of air conditioning in prisons has become an issue. CNN reports that advocates are asking a federal judge to order all juveniles immediately transferred out of Angola and into children’s facilities. “They’re in excessive Louisiana heat for days on end with no relief,” said Nancy Rosenbloom, senior litigation adviser of the ACLU National Prison Project, who told The Guardian the water in their cells was not drinkable. “The kids are telling us they have to hold out a cup through the bars to ask for water.”

TNR did find one Louisiana Republican, Representative Julia Letlow, who agreed that her state’s prisons should be air conditioned. “Gosh, well, a heat wave is hot, so yeah,” Letlow replied. Bayou State Senator Bill Cassidy, a medical doctor who once treated patients in Angola, suggested cooling down the prisoners by “spraying water” from a “garden hose or lawn sprinkler” to lower the temperature. “I got nothing for you on that,” said John Kennedy, the other Louisiana senator, when asked if the state’s prisons should be air conditioned.

“Sure it’s very, very hot in Texas,” said Ted Cruz, the junior senator from the Lone Star State where 100,000 inmates are without air conditioning, according to a report by Texas Public Radio. Like Scalise, Cruz wouldn’t hear of attributing the heat to climate change. “There are lots of people who have political agendas, and whatever happens with the weather they attribute to climate change,” lamented Cruz. “That’s not science, it’s ideology.”

Back in the House, GOP appropriators don’t just want to slash EPA funding, they also aim to claw back climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, two landmark legislative achievements for President Joe Biden during the last Congress. “I think they are unfortunately interfering with the market being able to produce the most reliable energy possible for the most American people,” said Representative Chip Roy, a Freedom Caucus Texan, of clean energy subsidies for wind and solar that Democrats passed last year by party-line vote on the IRA.

“It makes no sense,” said Elizabeth Gore of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Every state is poised to gain clean energy jobs, and some of the politicians touting the jobs created by these investments are the ones looking to take away funding,” she continued. Indeed, over half of the private investment from Biden’s wins in Congress have gone to counties that favored Donald Trump in the 2020 election, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.

In other words, MAGA country is disproportionately benefiting from legislation Democrats passed with little to no GOP support, an irony lost on congressional Republicans, who support gutting the EPA with the same nonchalant vibe with which they approach the sweltering heat wave that’s got one-third of Americans living under excessive heat warnings, watches, or advisories, according to the National Weather Service.

Phoenix has become the epicenter of the national heat dome with temperatures topping 110 degrees for 22 consecutive days. Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva represents the district. At least a dozen of his constituents are dead from the heat during this month alone. “Pulling back funding and resources is to make the situation worse and endanger life,” said Grijalva of the House GOP plan to gut the EPA. Grijalva said Republicans “know perfectly well” that “lower public health and more death is the outcome” of the GOP’s anti-climate agenda. “It’s kind of pathetic,” he said.