The GOP Climate ‘Traitors’ Have Something Else in Common …

Conservatives are continuing to pull the Republican party towards self-immolation today, vowing to defeat the eight House GOPers who backed last week’s climate change bill unless they change their votes.

Targeting those eight with the success of the climate bill is a silly and futile task, as the Huffington Post reports, given that Democratic leaders were prepared to twist more arms if fewer GOP votes materialized.

But while we note that most of the GOP climate backers had ties to the environmental community that explain their votes, it’s worth pointing out what else all eight have in common: a local investment in transit.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Rep. Dave Reichert (R) represents a suburban Seattle district that includes King County, where the local transit agency is running despite a budget deficit estimated at $168 million for the next two years.
  • Rep. Mark Kirk (R) represents the northern Chicago suburbs that rely on the Metra commuter train network, which this year faces a $19 million budget gap. Kirk’s advocacy on the issue was so strong that he joined Illinois PIRG to unveil a pro-transit report last year.
  • Rep. Mike Castle (R), Delaware’s lone House member, is a longtime Amtrak booster. In the next federal transportation bill, Castle is seeking $20 million for Amtrak, 4 million for fuel-efficient bus technology, and $2 million for a pedestrian greenway.
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R) is another longtime backer of New Jersey Transit, working to modernize the station in his Trenton home district by winning millions of dollars in federal earmarks.
  • Rep. Leonard Lance (R) represents parts of Somerset and Union Counties in New Jersey, where the recession has sidetracked local hopes for transit-oriented development, spurred by a $153 million upgrade to the Raritan Valley Line station.
  • Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) is another backer of New Jersey’s transit-oriented development push. He has praised transit and overall energy conservation for "ensur[ing] a greater return for consumers."
  • Finally, Rep. John McHugh’s (R) rural district in northern New York may not seem like a transit hotspot. But his constituents in Plattsburgh recently got an infusion of green jobs thanks to a new bus construction plant that will build vehicles for the New York City MTA.

Is there a link between the eight Republicans’ acknowledgment of transit and their vote to buck their  leaders on the climate bill? I would say yes, although not necessarily a direct one.

What’s more important is that communities where transit plays a central role are communities where action on climate change is valued — no matter what party the local lawmaker belongs to.


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