House backs bill to exclude climate change from trade deals

Climate Countdown-Trading Pollution
People attend a climate conference at the U.S. pavilion during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Widely derided by politicians on the left and the right, once thought dead even by its supporters, the idea of allowing companies to buy and sell pollution “rights” like stocks is now at the fore again as 151 heads of state and government at the Paris climate conference grope for ways to avert environmental havoc. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As negotiators in Paris worked to finalize a global agreement on climate change, the Republican-controlled House on Friday approved a bill that would block trade deals from being used to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Supporters said the wide-ranging bill would beef up enforcement of U.S. trade agreements and help prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country. The bill also would make permanent a moratorium that prevents states from taxing access to the Internet.

The bill was approved on a 256-168 vote. Twenty-four Democrats joined with 232 Republicans to support the bill.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill sends the wrong message as U.S. diplomats meet in Paris with more than 190 nations to finalize an agreement to reduce man-made carbon emissions and adapt to rising seas and increasingly extreme weather.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., said the climate provision was inserted by Republicans who oppose action on climate change. Many Republicans in Congress question whether human activities are contributing to global warming.

“The Republican Party of the United States may be the only political party anywhere in denial about climate change,” Levin said. “That denial is why this provision … on climate is before us.”

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the bill “will level the playing field for Americans and also make it easier for them to compete in a global marketplace.”

The provision on climate change ensures greater oversight of executive-branch negotiators who work on international trade agreements, Brady said.

“Trade agreements should not include provisions on immigration or greenhouse gas emissions,” he said, noting that there are other ways for officials to address immigration and global climate change.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the bill ensures that U.S. trade laws are enforced, that trade is streamlined and efficient and that no trade agreement will change U.S. immigration policy or expand access to visas to enter the country.

The provision on Internet taxation helps spur online innovation and “preserve Internet freedom so it can continue to be an engine for economic growth and human development,” McCarthy said.

Democrats complained that the bill stripped important protections against currency manipulation and eliminated penalties against countries that engage in human trafficking.

 

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