Bipartisanship feels increasingly rare in the United States today, but a recent House of Representatives vote shows it isn’t dead yet. 46 Republicans aligned with Democrats on a vote over language about climate change in defense policy legislation, tipping the vote against an amendment that would have removed the language. It’s a small step, but it could point to shifting opinions on climate change among Republicans.
Representative Scott Perry, a Republican of Pennsylvania, put forward an amendment that would have stripped defense policy legislation of language saying climate change is a direct threat to national security. The legislation in question also requires new analysis from the Department of Defense on climate change’s potential impact on the military. Perry’s amendment would have taken out the language calling for the analysis.
But almost 50 Republicans didn’t agree. The final vote was 185 to 234. Of the Democrats who voted, all voted against the amendment. 14 representatives, a mixture of Republicans and Democrats, did not vote.
During floor debate Perry, who is an Army veteran, said climate change shouldn’t be a priority for military commanders facing threats like North Korea or Islamist extremism, saying, “Literally litanies of other federal agencies deal with environmental issues including climate change.” He also said lawmakers shouldn’t decide the commanders’ priorities.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Florida, said policymakers should be “clear-eyed” about climate change. She pointed to sea level rise as a potential threat for military installations. And Elise Stefanik, a Republican of New York, said “we would be remiss in our efforts to protect our national security” by not considering climate change’s impact on the military.
Republicans from both red and blue states opposed Perry’s legislation, including representatives from Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.