The Senate and House Republican and Democratic environmental voting averages, as tabulated by the League of Conservation Voters, reflect an increasing polarization on environmental issues. The charts shown here graphically illustrate that trend.
The great majority of Republicans continued to repudiate
any measures that were favorable to the environment, while only
half as many Democrats as in 1998 could be counted on to support
the environment more than 90% of the time. The issues that the
Senate voted on are detailed on the
LCV website. In 1999, two-thirds of the Republican Senators voted
against the environment 100% of the time, up from half in 1998.
The same proportion of Republicans, 80%, voted anti-environment
more than 80% of the time in 1999 as well as in 1998.. In
contrast to 1998, when over half the Democrats had better than
90% pro-environment ratings, only 22% of Democratic Senators
exceeded the 90% mark. Still, two-thirds of the Democrats had 75%
or better ratings, in stark contrast to the two-thirds of
Republican Senators with 0% ratings.
On the House side, anti-environmentalism hardened among
Republicans, whose voting records were as bad as those of their
Senate colleagues. The issues before the House on which their
environmental records are based are also described on the
LCV website. In 1999, three quarters of the House Republicans
cast anti-environment votes more than 80% of the time, up from
60% in 1998. A full two thirds of House Democrats voted
pro-environment more than 80% of the time, but only 1% of House
Republicans did so.
Since taking control of the House in 1994, the Republicans in Congress have actively sought to roll back or weaken legislation and regulations that had been put in place to protect or improve the environment. Their staunch anti-environmentalism shows how out of touch they are with the public, in which a large majority has long been in favor of having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, and preserving our natural resources for future generations. In fact, a recent compilation of poll results showed that only one voter in 10 agrees with the Congressional Republican leadership that our efforts to protect the environment "have gone too far", while half of the public think we currently need to strengthen environmental laws and regulations.
The Republican Congressional leadership, in particular, has been staunchly anti-environment. Since his 1993 vote to exempt ethanol from a proposed energy tax garnered him a 6% rating, the Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott (R-MS), has unwaveringly retained his 0% rating from the LCV. Don Nickles (R-OK) the Senate Majority Whip, got a 0% rating for 1997-1999, and averaged 11% for 1993-1996. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, And Forestry Committee, averaged an uncharacteristically high (among high-ranking Republicans) rating of 15% for 1993-1999. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is in the capable hands of Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK). The Senator whom the Republicans have placed in charge of safeguarding our natural resources has voted on the anti-environmental side of every issue tracked by the LCV since 1993, with the sole exception of the proposal to exempt ethanol from an energy tax that so captivated Trent Lott. Chairing the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, we have Bob Smith (R-NH), with an 11% overall rating. The chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor And Pensions Committee, James Jeffords (R-VT), is a very rare Republican, with a 70% overall rating from LCV. Two very powerful committees with broad purview that determine environmental policy through control of the purse strings are the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Budget Committee. Appropriations is chaired by Ted Stevens (R-AK), with a 5% average rating. The Budget chair is Pete Domenici (R-NM), with a 7% average rating.
The current Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert (R-IL) averaged a 12% rating from 1993-1998 (as Speaker, he does not vote now). The House Majority Leader, Dick Armey (R-TX), averaged 9% for 1993-1999. Tom DeLay (R-TX), the House Majority Whip, has averaged 7% in the LCV ratings. The chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Larry Combest (R-TX), has scored 0% in 5 of the last 7 years. The House Resources Committee, whose subcommittees are National Parks & Public Lands; Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife & Oceans; Water & Power; Energy & Mineral Resources; Forests & Forest Health, is chaired by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). His stewardship of the country's natural resources has earned him an average 4% rating from the LCV for 1993-1999. On the House side, the Ways and Means Committee, with jurisdiction over tax laws and trade issues, is chaired by Bill Archer (R-TX), who has a 13% overall rating. The House Appropriations and Budget Committees are chaired by Bill Young (R-FL), 19%, and John Kasich (R-OH), 24%.
The party that is in the majority in either the House or the Senate sets the agenda, and can rigidly control what happens with all legislation. Committee chairs control which bills are considered, and which are ever to make it out of the committee alive. The leadership determines what will be considered by the full House or Senate. That which the leadership does not want done will never see the light of day, and what the leadership wants done will be done, the public, and even the national interest be damned. Anyone who doubts that would do well to recall only two matters: campaign finance reform, and the attempted impeachment of the President.
If both the Senate and House were to be returned to Democratic
control, the real possibility exists that we could once again set
a positive environmental agenda at the national level. The
Democratic leadership and committee chairs would be the exact
opposite of their Republican counterparts in terms of support for
the environment. The likely people to occupy the various Senate
posts, and their LCV 1993-1999 average ratings, are as
Majority Leader: Tom Daschle (D-SD), 72%.
Majority Whip: Harry Reid (D-NV), 75%.
Agriculture Chair: Tom Harkin (D-IA), 90%.
Energy Chair: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), 69%.
Environment Chair: Max Baucus (D-MT), 73%.
Health Chair: Edward Kennedy (D-MA), 95%
Appropriations Chair: Robert Byrd (D-WV), 61%.
Budget Chair: Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), 96%.
On the House side, we would probably have:
Speaker: Dick Gephardt (D-Mo), 78%.
Majority Leader: David Bonior (D-MI), 86%.
Agriculture Chair: Charles Stenholm (D-TX), 13% (a good candidate for replacement!).
Resources Chair: George Miller (D-CA), 93%.
Ways and Means Chair: Charles Rangel (D-NY), 79%.
Appropriations Chair: David Obey (D-WI), 77%.
Budget Chair: John Spratt (D-SC), 73%.
There could not be a clearer choice. Period.
This page was last updated 27 July 2000.