WASHINGTON — An unlikely duo on Capitol Hill is teaming up to find the solution for a pressing problem: climate change.
Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican, and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat, are introducing the first-ever bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. After meeting with constituents in town halls across both of their very different states, the lawmakers said they realized how crucial it is for lawmakers from both parties to address the issue.
"For too long, Washington has been paralyzed by partisan gamesmanship, unable to have productive conversations about our changing climate," said Braun, a freshman lawmaker. "Through this caucus we can have real conversations about protecting our environment, securing American’s energy future and protecting American manufacturing jobs."
The senators are planning on filling the caucus with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, who have not yet been announced. The group will first meet with scientists, policy experts and business leaders to try to find common ground and move forward from there. The senators said that the group will only move forward with ideas if there is unanimous consent.
"Bipartisan ideas already exist — from improving energy efficiency and investing in R&D to supporting energy security and workforce development. This caucus will provide a forum through which we can advance proposals like these into law and finally do what the American people expect and deserve — act," Coons said.
There is already Climate Solutions Caucus in the House, with 63 members — 22 Republicans and 41 Democrats. When asked how the Senate caucus will address existing ideas, such as the Green New Deal, the senators said that the caucus was more focused on specific policy proposals rather than the broad-strokes ideological platform.
Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., who co-Chairs the House Climate Solutions Caucus, said efforts to get more Republicans interested in climate change have been challenging.
"We’ve only had one meeting and we didn't have very many people show up for it so I think our climate solutions caucus needs some revitalization somehow," Rooney said. "The more things that happen, like the Senate adding a Climate Solutions Caucus, the more things that happen in the realm of climate discussion are good."
The Senate caucus won't have a chair or a ranking member, according to the senators.
"Our caucus will help facilitate these discussions by bringing an equal number of members from each party to the table, and it will only act when each member agrees," Braun said.
Braun chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, while Coons introduced the Climate Action Rebate Act in July.