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A New Speaker Brings an Uncertain Future for Congress and Climate Policy

In the past, Kevin McCarthy has expressed that climate is a lesser priority on his agenda.

The beginning of the new year marked a tedious change in the House of Representatives. On January 7, after 15 rounds of voting, the House settled their ballots. With a newly elected speaker, the House of Representatives is once more allowed to make and pass federal laws. With a switch from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker from San Francisco, to Kevin McCarthy, a Republican who represents California’s 20th district, changes in the House’s policies are inevitable. Furthermore, the institution and protection of environmental policies are bound to transform from the switch in House leadership. Although the Senate is still controlled by Democrats, the change in power is nevertheless a significant change in the law-drafting process of the federal government.

Power of the Speaker

The speaker essentially manages the House of Representatives in Congress. Without a speaker, the House cannot function smoothly. During the election period of Kevin McCarthy, the House of Representatives remained idle without a speaker in place. As a result, the House could not make or pass laws within the time period. The main purpose of the speaker however is to maintain order, manage proceedings, and govern the administration of business.

There are currently 435 representatives within the house and most hail from either the Democratic or Republican party. With such a divide in the House, it is essential that discourse remains open for every speaker equally. It is McCarthy’s duty to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard whether it be in a vote or a message to all in the House.

For days, Congress fought over who would replace Pelosi. It was Kevin McCarthy.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi made history with her election in 2007 as the first woman speaker, going to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives for two terms, making a total of eight years. Pelosi holds an exigent attitude toward climate change. She recognizes many of its effects in the state of California with devastating wildfires, an extending drought, and most recently, flooding from detrimental storms. Pelosi not only sees combating climate change as essential for the general health of Americans, and the nation’s economy but also as a moral responsibility to the future generations who inherit the state of the climate. The Democratic Inflation Reduction Act has committed to decreasing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, lowering energy costs, decarbonizing the economy, investing over 60$ billion to tackling climate injustice, and delivering clean water. Nancy Pelosi’s efforts as the former speaker to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis have positively impacted the state of America’s climate action initiatives. Although she is no longer the Speaker of the House, Pelosi is still an active member of the House of Representatives and continues to commit to change for years to come.

Pelosi was adamant about tackling climate issues, as seen here at the Global Climate Action Summit in 2018.

McCarthy’s Environmental Policies

McCarthy has not explicitly stated his environmental policies or whether the climate crisis fits within his desired plans. He has however acknowledged the importance of clean, usable water. The drought plaguing California has posed various challenges to families, agriculture, and the environment. He is more focused on its impact on families and agriculture as they influence the economy more than the environment. McCarthy stated in an interview with E&E News that he hopes to shift America to use cleaner energy and reduce emissions. However, other Republicans believe that foreign countries should invest more in clean energy so that the United States does not cut off domestic production. Republicans’ preferred source of energy is natural gas which reduces emissions. However, many claim that the federal government must entirely replace fossil fuels to curb emissions and ensure a livable future. Republicans are unlikely to do so however as they reap what they sow from coal and oil emissions. The campaigns of many Republicans are also funded by lobbyist fossil fuel corporations. The relation between such candidates and companies further causes the party to depend on fossil fuel corporations to fuel the country as well as their campaign. Although many forms of renewable energy are cheaper, many Republicans have remained loyal to their income from energy.

Future of the House and Climate

There is no direct consequence deriving from the change of speakers, although it can still greatly impact the bills and laws in place for the environment. The purpose of Congress is to create policies for problems that the nation faces. The issue however is that each party has its own definitions of problems, complicated by people's biases, ties to corporations, and political agendas. Although the speaker appears to be a mere manager of the House, they also interpret and synthesize the passing of bills. The House of Representatives may now be controlled by a party that seldom values the climate crisis but it does not mean there is no hope for environmental protection. The progress that Congress will make may slow or diminish but it will never go out so long as the people of the United States continue to advocate against the world’s most pressing ecological and health crisis.



Featured image:

"House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif." by Talk Media News Archived Galleries is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Content images:

1. "Congressman Jim Langevin Presides Over the House of Representatives" by Speaker Nancy Pelosi is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

2. "File: Congressman Nancy Pelosi (30869039868).jpg" by Global Climate Action Summit 2018 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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