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18.10.04

Yes, Environmentalists Are Usually Liberals

Standoff In Congress Blocks Action On Environmental Bills

For another year, the confluence of partisan tensions, ideological differences, regional conflicts and interest group politics has blocked action on key environmental legislation including reducing air pollution and protecting endangered species, according to lawmakers, advocates and academics.

... "We are in a stalemate," said House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.). He said that although he resents the executive branch's growing influence on environmental issues, "we've allowed it to happen. We never should have."

... Emblematic of the congressional standoff is the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the top two senators have been unable to agree to meet in the same room to approve minor bills. The political and ideological chasm is evident in how they discuss environmental issues: Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) describes environmentalists this way: "They are really liberals. They're all strong pro-abortionists, they're all pro-gun control people, flying under the flag of environmentalism." Ranking minority member James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) says President Bush is "killing people" because he won't crack down on pollution from power plants.


Inhofe's statement is kind of bizarre. I have no reason to doubt that it's true -- despite the importance of the more conservative hunting and fishing crowd, a majority of environmentalists are pro-choice and anti-gun. I just don't understand the relevance of bringing that up. One could construct ostensibly environmental legislation that smuggles in other liberal causes -- say, a population-control measure that depends on improved access to abortion, or limits on certain guns due to concerns about overhunting or cruelty to prey. But those types of arguments don't apply to the major environmental issues currently on Congress's plate, like greenhouse gas emissions and Superfund. I can think of two explanations. One is that Inhofe is revealing how deep the antagonism between the sides is by attacking environmentalists, rather than environmentalism. The other is that he's trying to work in the new anti-Kerry talking point that we should be worried about liberal extremists.

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