Bipartisanship in Climate Change


Bipartisanship Laser Talk

Question:  Why is bipartisanship important for climate policy?

Answer:  When legislation is bipartisan, it means that both parties have taken ownership. That’s the key to making laws that will endure.

In 1935, the House passed the Social Security Act by a margin of 348 votes from both parties. [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 often hear about bipartisan legislation these days , because it can’t compete with conflict, controversy, and scandal for media attention. However, it’s the way the best things get done in Washington. Most legislators actually do value reaching across the aisle. We see that in the formation of working groups like the Problem Solvers Caucus, [5] and the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. [6]

But what about the voters? What do they really want? 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 both major political parties to support climate action, not just to get legislation passed and signed, but to prove that they are invested in making it succeed over the long haul.

In a Nutshell: Bipartisanship for 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 still approve of bipartisanship, and it’s been a feature of virtually all transformative legislation over the past century.

  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. “Problem Solvers Caucus.” Ballotpedia (accessed 05/09/18).
  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 05/06/21 at 11:25 CDT.