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Commentary

Scoring Congressional Caucuses of Color on the Environment

May 17, 2017

If you like actual voting data along with your politics, then you’ll enjoy today’s post.

Yesterday, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) along with Chispa, an organizing initiative aimed at encouraging Latinx voters to play a bigger role in environmental policymaking, published the first-ever National Environmental Scorecard: Report on Congressional Caucuses of Color.

Every year since 1970, the LCV rates the environmental and public health voting record of each member of Congress. This new scorecard, which analyzes the environment-related voting records of representatives who are active in caucuses representing people of color, clearly shows that these members are taking the lead when it comes to doing the work around environmental issues. (Well, most of them.) “Members of Congress of color are not only voting pro-environment, they are also championing solutions for clean water, clean air, and climate action,” said LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld, in a statement.

Here’s the tale of the tape for 2016, analyzing 17 votes in the U.S. Senate and 38 votes in the U.S. House:

  • Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (Senate and House Democrats) - 98%
  • Congressional Black Caucus (Senate and House Democrats) - 89%
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (Senate and House Democrats) - 90%
  • Congressional Hispanic Conference (Senate and House Republicans)- 10%

By comparison, the average 2016 score in the full Senate was 50%, and the average score in the House was just 43%.

For those keeping track at home, low-scoring Congressional Hispanic Conference members include Sen. Marco Rubio with 6%, Rep. Devin Nunes with 3%, and Sen. Ted Cruz with 0%.

On a brief but lively press call, LCV board members along with Senator Mazie K. Hirono [D-Hawaii] explained that the high scores from most of the caucuses shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Under-resourced, beset by environmentally hazardous conditions, chronic health woes, and now climate change, vulnerable communities of color tend to be hit the hardest by environmental problems. And, they have little political clout. (See also: Flint, Michigan.) On the call, Sen. Hirono explained that given the current political climate – and the “most anti-environment president in history” – her caucus was urgently looking for more ways to work collaboratively together. “It’s no coincidence that caucuses of color have very high support” [for environmental issues], she said. “We really understand the challenges that people of color face in our communities.”

In addition to lauding the scorecard, LCV Board Member and Hip-Hop Caucus president Rev. Lennox Yearwood made it clear that he considered the data to be a line in the sand. He cited groups like the Safe Climate Caucus, and the newly launched United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force as good news for smart policies and policymakers. “But many members are not doing their part at all,” he said, gaining steam. “This raises our eyebrows and forces us to ask why. Why are you not doing everything you can to protect the health of our communities? Why are you not doing everything you can to create new economic opportunities in clean energy like solar and wind? Why are you not doing everything in your power to protect the most vulnerable people from the effects of climate change?”

Cristóbal J. Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, echoed the sentiment. “The Congressional Caucuses of Color Scorecard is a critical tool for us to use in holding our elected officials accountable and to reward them when they do right by us,” he said.

Buensas noticias! El informe está disponible en español e inglés.

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