Friday, November 03, 2017

Congress' Worst Climate Change Denier (R-TX) Is Riding Off Into The Sunset


A couple days ago, we noted that one of Ryan's top lieutenants in Texas, House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling is abandoning the sinking ship. Hensarling announced he's had enough. Unfortunately, Hensarling is in a pretty bullet-proof, gerrymandered district stretching from increasingly blue Dallas County into half a dozen blood-red exurban and rural districts to the east (PVI is R+16). Yesterday, however, Ryan lost another of his Texas committee chairs, crackpot Lamar Smith, who would have probably lost reelection in a district zigging and zagging from Austin to San Antonio and west into the Texas Hill Country. In 2015 TX-21 had a PVI of R+12. This year it's gone down to R+10, a reasonable target in a tsunami election like the one Trump is bringing on.

Many in Congress were overjoyed to find out that the nation's most harmful climate change denier is getting out of politics. According to Abby Livingston at the Texas Tribune "The news is sure to please environmentalists who have bemoaned Smith's long record of climate skepticism. As chairman of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology, Smith repeatedly cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change."
In a 2015 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he described global temperature increases over the past 15 years as “negligible” and said links between climate change and worsening weather events had been debunked. During the latter half of that year, he sparred with the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over the methodology of a study that agency scientists published in the journal Science. (The study found that a widely publicized “lull” in the rate of global warming, a cornerstone of conservative arguments against climate change-related policies, resulted from faulty statistical methods.)

And the congressman also actively intervened on behalf of ExxonMobil amid high-profile investigations by Democratic state attorneys general into what the oil giant knew about climate change and when. He convened a congressional hearing on the matter and demanded documents from the attorneys general that would reveal the inner workings of their investigations.

...Speculation immediately began among Texas GOP insiders about who could succeed Smith in his seat. Names included state Reps. Jason Isaac and Lyle Larson, and Austin City Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair.

State Sen. Donna Campbell's name was also put in play. A spokesman for Campbell said she "will carefully and prayerfully consider what is best for her and the district."

Austin-based communications consultant Jenifer Sarver, a Republican, confirmed that she's "taking a serious look" at running for the seat.
You can probably guess what Science Magazine had to say about Smith's decision. Spoiler: they were not in mourning. "The controversial chairperson of the science committee in the U.S. House of Representatives announced today that he will not seek re-election to Congress next fall. The pending departure of Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX) could give the U.S. scientific community a chance to recalibrate a rocky 5-year relationship with a key congressional committee... [H]is departure could be more than simply a changing of the Republican guard. Smith, trained as a lawyer, has fought acrimonious battles with scientists over peer review, climate change, and the role of the federal government in supporting basic research since becoming chairperson in January 2013. He has clashed repeatedly with senior officials at the National Science Foundation, which he has accused of wasting tax dollars on frivolous research, and at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which he believes has hampered economic development through overregulation... The Union of Concerned Scientists, which has been one of Smith’s leading critics over the years, says his departure 'offers Congress and the science community a chance for a fresh start.' The science committee “became a venue for partisan conflict and political interference in science” during his tenure, says Andrew Rosenberg, who heads the union’s center for science and democracy in Cambridge, Massachusetts."

Goal ThermometerThis sets up the race exactly how the progressive in the primary, Derrick Crowe, would want for the rest of the election. It creates one long general election where TX-21 Democrats get to pick the kind of candidate they want to send to Washington instead of having people in pundit mode. Crowe can talk about getting Democratic and independent voters excited about true progressive values and not have them handicapping a horse race the whole time. He has to see this as a really thrilling development. On his website yesterday, he wrote that "This is how wave elections happen. Lamar Smith’s retirement is incredible news for everyone fighting for real action on climate change. It’s also a strong sign we are on our way to retaking Congress. Smith's retirement is a sign we’re winning the fight retake our government from the alt-right. He obviously saw the power of the grassroots uprising against him and opted to leave before suffering a loss in the general election. Today's news solidifies the dynamics already at play in the midterms, which are about motivating your base. We are proud to be the progressive torchbearer in this race and look forward to retaking this seat from special interests."

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At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can Hensarling hide from the truth after Harvey? The voters there in Texas aren't going to allow it!


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