Bipartisanship in Climate Change


Parties and Partisanship Laser Talk

Question: How does CCL reconcile its commitment to non-partisanship with its commitment to battle climate change?

Answer:  When legislation draws support across party lines, it means that politicians with differing political loyalties have taken ownership. That’s the key to making laws that will endure. We can’t afford to let climate change be just another game of partisan ping-pong.

In 1935, the House passed the Social Security Act by a margin of 348 votes from both Republicans and Democrats. [1] In 1963, the Clean Air Act passed the House by 164 votes, [2] and bills to strengthen it were passed by even larger margins – 374 votes in 1970 [3] and 382 votes in 1990. [4] All these bills had bipartisan support, and were signed into law by both Democratic and Republican Presidents.

The public may not hear much about bipartisan legislation these days. It can’t compete for media attention with conflict, controversy, and scandal. However, it’s the only way really big things get done in Washington. Most legislators actually do value reaching across the aisle. We see that in the formation of caucuses, many of which cross party lines, [5] and some of which have even focused on climate. [6]

But what about the voters? Research by political scientist Dr. Celia Paris shows that, regardless of party, voters have more confidence in Congress when “a bill has bipartisan sponsorship.” They “assume that bills sponsored only by the opposite party are bad,” but bipartisan collaboration, on the other hand, “benefits a legislator’s reputation and it also increases public support for the policy.” [7]

We need legislators to support climate action regardless of party, not just to get legislation passed and signed, but to prove that they are invested in making it succeed over the long haul. It’s hard, frustrating work, but it has to be done.

In a Nutshell: A non-partisan approach to climate policy is an important pursuit simply because such policy needs to be enduring, and ownership by both major parties is the best way to ensure that outcome. Despite the bitterness and turmoil we’ve seen lately, most voters do not want blatant partisanship to poison our lawmaking when transformative legislation is urgently needed.

  1. “To Pass H.R. 7260, (P.A. 271), the Social Security Bill.” (accessed 05/09/18).
  2. “H.R. 6518. The Clean Air Act. Passage.” (accessed 05/09/18).
  3. “To Pass H.R. 17255.” (accessed 05/09/18).
  4. “Clean Air Act Amendments of ” (accessed 05/09/18).
  5. “What’s the point of Congressional caucuses?” Chamber Hill Strategies (accessed 06/01/22).
  6. “Climate Solutions Caucus.” Citizens’ Climate Lobby (accessed 04/25/20).
  7. Winchester, F. “Bipartisanship improves public opinion of legislators & policy,” Citizens’ Climate Lobby (13 Feb 2018).

This page was last updated on 06/19/22 at 20:55 CDT.