The Clean Water Scorecard for the 116th Congress

September 10, 2020
 Capitol Dome with flag

Since the start of the 116th Congress in 2019, the House of Representatives has worked to put people, water, and the environment first while the Senate has prioritized corporate special interests and rubber stamping the President’s nominees. Clean Water Action’s Scorecard documents these attacks and shows you how your elected officials voted on key environmental legislation.

It’s a cliche to say that elections have consequences — but it’s true.

We saw that especially in 2016 and then again in 2018. The elections in 2016 brought us the worst President for the environment in modern US history and a Congress that put protecting polluter profits and implementing the Trump agenda before protecting our health, environment, or democracy. Voters began to right the ship in 2018 by sweeping progressive champions from across the country into the House. This new majority went to work right away to hold the Trump administration accountable and pass legislation that prioritizes people. The first bill passed by the House in 2019 was H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a series of democracy reforms. The House continued, passing nearly 500 bills including legislation to protect the Arctic Refuge from drilling, make Washington DC the 51st state, protect our coasts from offshore drilling, and more. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Green New Deal, with hundreds of co-sponsors and the House rejected the Trump administration’s reckless spending cuts.

The House in the 116th Congress has held the Trump administration’s feet to the fire, holding hearings to investigate decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) that put our health, water, and lands at risk. They have introduced bills like the Clean Water for All Act which would repeal the Trump administration’s Dirty Water Rule. In 2020, the House of Representatives impeached President Trump.

As the nation was gripped by the COVID-19 crisis, the House continued to put people first in relief efforts. In addition to the stimulus and relief bills that were also passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the House has passed bills like the HEROES Act to strengthen our elections by providing states with the funding needed to make voting safe and expand Vote-by-Mail. The HEROES Act also would establish a moratorium on utility and water shutoffs and fund a program to help low-income people afford their water bills. Despite overwhelming public support for these measures, GOP Senate leadership has indicated they are unlikely to pass the bill in its current form. During the pandemic, the House also passed H.R. 2 in July 2020. H.R. 2 is a sweeping bill to fund a 21st century transportation system and make improvements to the nation’s failing infrastructure. It is forward-looking legislation that would create jobs and address emissions from the transportation sector, the nation’s largest source of climate change pollution.

Unfortunately the US Senate, under the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has remained committed to rubber stamping the President’s agenda instead of operating as a separate branch of government. The Senate could have demanded accountability when the scandal-plagued tenures of Scott Pruitt at EPA and Ryan Zinke at DOI ended, but Senators simply confirmed their replacements — both corporate lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry — along party line votes. In fact, the Senate has spent more time confirming President Trump’s judicial and other appointments than legislating. The Senate has let important bills like H.R. 1 linger and refused to take up any significant legislation to address the climate crisis or chemical contamination of our water. The only significant environmental bill passed by the Senate was the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) which fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Act and addresses the maintenance backlog at our national parks. While important, passage of GAOA doesn’t come close to making up for the Senate’s refusal to put the needs of people before the profits of corporate special interests.

The Senate has equally not been up to the task when it comes to helping the country weather the COVID-19 crisis. After the initial rounds of relief bills, the Senate has demanded additional bailouts for corporations and liability protection for companies who might force their employees back to work without proper safeguards. Senate leadership is willing to let states go bankrupt, will not appropriate funding so states can ensure safe and fair elections, and is standing by as the President attempts to dismantle the US Postal Service.

We must change this.

The most important election in our history is this November. We hope you’ll use these scores as a guide at the ballot box. The people who represent us matter. For too long, too many elected officials have cared more about the powerful special interests who call the shots in Washington than people like you and me.

We must elect people in 2020 who will work with us to build the just, sustainable future we all deserve.

The US House has passed hundreds of bills during the 116th Congress while the Senate has become a legislative “graveyard”. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, relishes his role as a barrier to common sense protections for our water and health. He has embraced the nickname, “the Grim Reaper” as he has refused to allow the Senate to take up bills that would safeguard our water, air, climate, and health; protect and improve our democracy; address our failing infrastructure; and more. The Senate has instead focused on confirming President Trump’s judicial and administrative nominees. As a result, Clean Water Action was only able to score 5 votes in the Senate, despite scoring 18 votes in the House.

SCORING: Clean Water Action tallied 18 votes for each Representative and 5 votes for each Senator. For a perfect 100%, a member of Congress must vote correctly on all votes for which they register a vote. Most votes followed party lines — Republicans generally voting against, and Democrats in favor of the environment. 111 Republican members of the US House scored zero or in the single digits. 225 Democratic members of the House scored 94% or higher, including 213 perfect scores of 100%. In the Senate, 45 of the 47 Democratic and Independent members scored above 80% or higher with 40 earning a perfect 100%. In contrast only one Republican member of the Senate scored 80% with the majority scoring 40% or lower. The partisan breakdown is clear — Republican Members of Congress favor corporate special interests while putting our health, environment, and climate at risk.

See fact sheets for Clean Water Action states here.

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