Freshman Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is wasting no time trying to carve out a space for himself within the extreme right of the Republican dominated House of Representatives. On Friday, Gaetz introduced a bill that would “terminate” the Environmental Protection Agency.
In an interview with a local Florida news station on Wednesday, Gaetz said that his bill would terminate the EPA and leave environmental regulation and enforcement up to individual states. The bill was referred to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. That committee’s chair, Lamar Smith of Texas, recently made news in his floor speech arguing that people should ignore the media and listen only to Donald Trump for the “unvarnished truth.” The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is a fruitful landing-place for Gaetz’s bill, given Smith’s history as a climate change denier.
As of this post, the text of Gaetz’s bill has not been posted to the Congressional web page. However, Gaetz was able to pick up three cosponsors for the bill: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY); Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS); and, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA).
Gaetz’s bill should serve as a reminder that Donald Trump is not the singular threat to decisive action on climate change. To be sure, every action undertaken by the Trump Organization during their first two weeks in office is bad news for the planet: Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a well-established anti-EPA warrior and climate change skeptic; Trump imposed a gag rule on the EPA and froze all grants and projects; Trump himself has called climate change a hoax concocted by China; and, just a few days ago, the Trump Organization moved to gut EPA regulations on businesses.
However, we should not forget that the extreme rightward shift of the Republican Party has placed climate change denial at the center of their platform. It was House Republicans, after all, that passed a bill just a few days ago to halt EPA regulations which prevented dumping coal mining waste into streams. And, as The Guardian has noted, the Republican Party is the only conservative party in the world that denies that humans are causing climate change.
It is likely that Matt Gaetz is looking to make a splash for himself as an up-and-coming right-wing warrior in the Republican Party. His bill might die quietly in committee, having served its purpose of giving Gaetz some initial far-right street cred. But these are not normal times. If anything, Gaetz’s bill should underscore that the Republican Party is committed to destroying our public institutions. And they have a deep bench.