McConnell to Trump: Don’t Push Decision On Paris Agreement Off on Me

During the presidential campaign, Trump criticized the Paris Climate Agreement and promised that he would withdraw the U.S. from it if elected. But that commitment seems to be at odds with some of his closest advisors, and so we keep seeing delays in his announcement as the controversy over a decision continues.

Meanwhile, the administration is being pressured from a lot of different interests to not abandon the agreement. That doesn’t simply include Democrats and environmental activists. It is also coming from major corporations and our allies in the European Union—many of whom will likely make their case to the president at the G7 meeting tomorrow. Even Pope Francis weighed in with a powerful statement this week.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis appeared to make his point with a gift.

During an initially awkward meeting in Vatican City, Francis presented President Trump with a signed copy of “Laudato Si” — the pontiff’s 192-page work calling for a new partnership between science and religion to combat human-driven climate change. In doing so, the pope seemed to make a clear statement to a president who once called climate change a Chinese plot and is on the cusp of deciding whether to honor the Paris agreement on addressing global warming.

But Jonathan Swan reports that there is a group that is pressuring in the opposite direction.

A group of 22 heavyweight Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are sending a letter to President Trump today urging him to make a clean exit from the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. The letter applauds Trump for beginning the process of unwinding Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations, but says that goal is imperiled if he decides to remain in the Paris climate change deal.

It is no surprise that these climate science deniers in the Senate would take a stand against the Paris Agreement. But I have a hunch there is more to this letter than an attempt to make that case. A couple of months ago, in reporting on the conflict in the White House about this decision, Coral Davenport noted an alternative way to handle this situation that appeared to catching on.

As Mr. Trump and his advisers weigh their Paris options, one proposal is gaining traction, according to participants in the debate: Mr. Trump could declare that the Paris agreement is a treaty that requires ratification by the Senate. The pact was designed not to have the legal force of a treaty specifically so that it would not have to go before the United States Senate, which would have assuredly failed to ratify it…

Proponents of that idea say it could shift some of the weight of the decision from Mr. Trump to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, at least in the eyes of some foreign diplomats, and of the president’s daughter.

Obviously the 22 Senators who signed that letter want Trump to pull out of the Paris Agreement. But it sure looks like between the lines they’re saying, “Don’t pass this decision off on us.”

McConnell has enough headaches already—like coming up with a health care bill that can ensure those tax cuts for the wealthy, doesn’t take insurance away from 23 million people, and can get 50 votes. The fact that the letter about the Paris Agreement only got 22 signatures out of 52 Republican Senators might tell you something.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.