A group of more than three dozen senators are pressing President Obama to tell the truth in talks with foreign leaders on any deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and explain that the ultimate say is with Congress and not the administration.
Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma led a group of 37 senators in sending a letter to the president Thursday night, saying that any global agreement with "binding" timetables and emission targets, as well as financial obligations costing taxpayers, "must be brought before Congress for approval."
The GOP argues that the Obama administration is attempting to go around Congress in its plans to sign onto a United Nations climate change deal at a meeting in Paris, Nov. 30-Dec. 11. "Our constituents are worried that the pledges you are committing the United States to will strengthen foreign economies at the expense of American workers," the letter reads. "They are also skeptical about sending billions of their hard-earned dollars to government officials from developing nations."
The commitments the administration has made to secure the deal have not been approved by the Congress, most notably a $100 billion-a-year Green Climate Fund, the letter reads. The fund, slated to be fully funded by 2020, would pledge money to developing nations to help them cope with sea-level rise and the effects of global warming. Many scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for causing more severe weather, droughts and flooding.
"You have unilaterally pledged $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds to the Green Climate Fund without the consent of Congress. Congress has never authorized funding for the Green Climate Fund," the letter reads. The senators say they will block the funding if the deal is not submitted to Congress.
"While the executive branch and Congress both play an important role in the foreign policy of our nation, Congress ultimately holds the power of the purse. We pledge that Congress will not allow U.S. taxpayer dollars to go to the Green Climate Fund until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate for its constitutional advice and consent," the letter says.
These factors must be explained to foreign leaders and their delegations while hashing out a deal in Paris, the letter says. The senators request that Obama direct U.S. climate change negotiator Todd Stern, who will represent the U.S. in the talks, "to be forthcoming" with his counterparts from developing nations about the views of Congress.
"He must provide these nations with the full picture of where a co-equal U.S. branch of government stands on these issues," the letter reads. "He must explain that Congress will not be forthcoming with these funds in the future without a vote in the Senate on any final agreement as required in the U.S. Constitution."