Congressman Chris Van Hollen

Representing the 8th District of Maryland

Van Hollen Discusses U.S.-China Climate Deal, Lame Duck Agenda with MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart

“There are obviously huge job opportunities here if we do it right. So I wish Mitch McConnell would, you know, stop keeping his head in the sand when it comes to climate change.”
Nov 12, 2014
Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen discussed the agreement between the United States and China to cut greenhouse gas emissions and Congress’ “lame duck” agenda with MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart. Below is a transcript and video of the interview.
JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART, MSNBC: Let’s bring in Congressman Chris Van Hollen. He is the Democrat from Maryland, Ranking Member of the Budget Committee. Good morning. What a pleasure to see you.
CONGRESSMAN VAN HOLLEN: Morning, Jose. Great to be with you.
DÍAZ-BALART: Thanks. I know you’ve been pushing for climate change measures in the Congress. Let me start by getting your thoughts on this agreement that was announced yesterday.
VAN HOLLEN: I have been. And this is a very important step forward. A lot of the critics of President Obama’s climate change efforts have said the United States is going this alone. We need other partners. And now we have we have a partner. In fact, China, as people know, is the largest emitter right now of carbon pollution. So it was really important to get them into this agreement. So, a very important step forward on climate change. Again, a long way to go. And, of course, these commitments have to be met. But it is a historic moment.
DÍAZ-BALART: Yeah – Mitch McConnell is already calling it an unrealistic plan that would ensure, quote, “higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.” He went on to say the voters rejected the president’s policies last week. Is this deal going to go anywhere in Congress, you think?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, the President doesn’t need Congress for this deal. The President’s already laid out his plan to help reduce carbon pollution here in the United States.
Now, I would urge Congress and I would urge Mitch McConnell to be part of the solution here, not part of the problem. Because the President has acknowledged that we can accomplish our carbon pollution targets more efficiently if we do it through the kind of market-based system that many of us in Congress have been pushing for, which actually will create huge job opportunities as we move toward cleaner energy.
We want an all-of-the-above energy approach, including clean energy, so there are obviously huge job opportunities here if we do it right. So I wish Mitch McConnell would, you know, stop keeping his head in the sand when it comes to climate change. It’s costing us billions and billions of dollars a year already. And let’s get to work.
DÍAZ-BALART: You’re saying it costs us billions and billions of dollars already. How?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, it costs us billions of dollars in the form of extreme weather events that are making things like Hurricane Sandy more intense in terms of the damage they do.  If you look out west at the drought problems in California and the Midwest, scientists say that the intensity of these droughts will only increase. And, actually, you can see it in the way insurance companies are pricing their products. So, for people who think that this is all sort of hazy nonsense, the reality is insurance companies are putting a dollar price on the additional costs to insure against these kind of effects.
So, why not have a policy in place that reduces both the human costs of those extreme weather events but also invests in the technology and energy of tomorrow? And it’s a huge opportunity. Right now, China is actually the largest investor in solar and wind. We want to win that international competition in the United States. So, this will help push us in the right direction.
DÍAZ-BALART: Congressman, the House and the Senate reconvened just a couple of hours after nearly, what, a two-month break. After meeting with party leaders last week, the President is hoping the lame duck Congress will approve extra money to fight ISIS and Ebola and approve a spending bill to keep the government running through December. Will all that get done? And then, you know, I’m even leaving out the whole immigration issue. But, let’s talk about these issues. Do you think anything can be done?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, let’s break them into little pieces. First, you have the overall issue of keeping the federal government open, because right now the agreement on funding the government expires on December 11. So, Congress has got to get its act together. I think we’re on track, except the possibility of these murmurings from some of the tea party folks that they may want to use that as an opportunity to prevent the President from moving forward on executive action on immigration reform. The best way to actually prevent that is to have a vote in the House on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill.
With respect to Ebola, I think there will be additional funding.
And, finally, with respect to ISIS, a lot of us are going to want to make sure that the funds that are going to be used to train and equip the Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces in Iraq are used for that, and that we are not going down the slippery slope toward getting U.S. forces reengaged in combat operations in Iraq. The President has said they’re not for combat operations, but a lot of us would like to see that in the law.
DÍAZ-BALART: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, what a pleasure to see you again. Thank you for being with me this morning.
VAN HOLLEN: It’s good to be with you. Thank you.