Overview of the 2018 Scorecard
We are thrilled that the 2018 National Environmental Scorecard is the last of an eight-year reign by the most anti-environmental U.S. House of Representatives in history. The tectonic shift to a pro-environment majority comes not a moment too soon, as the Trump administration has continued its unrelenting assault on our air, water, lands and wildlife—all to benefit its corporate polluter allies. The attacks on the environment and public health from the Trump administration and the House of Representatives throughout 2018 were all the more egregious in light of the record-breaking climate-change-fueled extreme weather our nation experienced—from the deadliest wildfire in California’s history to more intense hurricanes along the east coast—in the fourth hottest year on record, surpassed only by 2015, 2016, and 2017. It’s clear that climate change is having devastating impacts on people across the country, particularly those from low-income and communities of color.
The 2018 National Environmental Scorecard details how the extreme leadership in the House of Representatives failed to protect our environment and public health or combat the climate crisis. Instead, as the votes show, they continued to serve as a rubber stamp on the Trump administration’s attacks and once again pushed their own breathtakingly anti-environmental agenda. The 35 scored votes chronicle the breadth and depth of the chamber’s destructive efforts from allowing more toxic pollution into our air to removing protections for endangered species to slashing clean energy funding.
The good news is that, by and large, this legislation was dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. Thanks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the “Green Firewall” of defense, the overwhelming majority of the House’s harmful legislative proposals didn’t even come up for a vote. The Senate’s 14 scored votes were instead predominately efforts to confirm President Trump’s radical nominees to the federal judiciary and the executive branch. It is clear that in the absence of meaningful legislative action, one of the most damaging legacies of Trump’s presidency will be reshaping the federal judiciary with his nomination of extreme and partisan candidates for lifetime appointments. In particular, the Supreme Court wields immense power over the interpretation of our bedrock environmental protections. Brett Kavanaugh’s extensive antienvironmental record, coupled with the credible allegations of sexual assault against him, led us to take the rare step of scoring two separate floor votes on the same matter—Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. In positive news, two extreme judicial picks—Ryan Bounds and Thomas Farr—failed to proceed after Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) joined Democrats in opposing their nominations based on their troubling records.
The Scorecard also includes votes on several extreme nominees to serve in the Trump administration, a continuation of a trend from the 2017 Scorecard, which featured votes on a slew of nominees who went on to do tremendous damage after taking up their posts. Fortunately, public pressure and opposition to the horrendous policies and scandals that engulfed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke helped push them out of the Trump administration.
The year concluded with Trump’s zealous refusal to sign a government funding bill that didn’t include money to build his racist and anti-environmental wall along our southern border. Across both chambers, we scored several votes seeking to build the wall and promote other harmful anti-immigrant policies. Trump’s obsession with this xenophobic border wall caused a 35-day government shutdown—the longest in U.S. history—that shuttered or exposed America’s majestic national parks to harm, furloughed EPA workers who protect our communities from pollution, and forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers to go without pay.
Despite the many attacks on the environment and public health from the House and the Trump administration, there were a few instances of bipartisan cooperation, largely thanks to leadership from the Senate. This included the passage into law of a pro-conservation Farm Bill and a Water Resources Development Act that takes important steps forward on water infrastructure as well as a bipartisan agreement in the Senate to avoid new anti-environmental and other harmful policy riders in appropriations bills.
Overall, the 2018 scores reveal fairly stark polarization between the parties. Seven Republican senators received a score of zero percent in 2018, meaning they voted against the environment and public health at every opportunity. In sharp contrast, 35 Democratic senators and one independent senator earned a perfect score of 100 percent. In the Senate, Democrats, and the independents who caucus with them, averaged 95 percent, while Republicans averaged eight percent. On the House side, 77 Republicans earned a zero percent and 29 Democrats earned a perfect score of 100 percent. The House Democratic caucus averaged 90 percent, whereas the House Republican caucus averaged eight percent.
As we begin 2019, we couldn’t be more excited to work with the new, pro-environment House majority to hold the Trump administration accountable and make real progress in the 116th Congress. Under the strong, proven leadership of Speaker Pelosi, this exciting new majority looks more like the country as a whole, campaigned on a message of action on climate, healthy communities and protection of public lands, and now clearly has a mandate to stop the corporate polluters’ agenda in its tracks. While we anticipate that the Trump administration and the Republican leadership in the Senate will prevent major pro-environment legislation from becoming law, there are opportunities to make significant progress in states across the country this year. LCV and our state LCV partners are more determined than ever to maximize that progress in the months and years to come. This change is coming when we need it most—because the stakes have never been higher for our environment, our health, and especially our climate.