Republicans Oppose Tax Hikes, And That Includes Carbon Taxes

Republicans Oppose Tax Hikes, And That Includes Carbon Taxes
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If there’s one thing voters can count on from Republican lawmakers, it’s that they won’t raise taxes. Love them or hate them, the American people know Republicans are the party of lower taxation.

Yet self-serving political organizations and several news reports would have us believe there’s a new “momentum” building on the political right in support of carbon taxes. Ted Halstead, Chief Executive of the self-described “conservative” Climate Leadership Council (CLC), unveiled the organization’s new policy roadmap last week, telling Politico that he expects “a jailbreak moment” of Republican support for carbon taxes. 

Halstead would like for you to disregard that he already promised Politico the same “jailbreak moment” last March when he claimed he had five Republican Senators ready to introduce CLC’s carbon tax. Of course, no Republican Senator has supported the plan to date.

In fact, the only “momentum” Halstead can report trends in the opposite direction. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) has dropped his support of CLC's bill after being a co-sponsor last Congress. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), the sole Republican lawmaker supporting CLC’s carbon tax, announced his retirement rather than face a primary challenger. After three years spent lobbying Congress, Halstead cannot point to a single Republican returning to Congress who supports his plan.

In reality, the Republican party is nearly unanimous in its opposition to carbon taxes. Last Congress, Republican Whip Steve Scalise sponsored an anti-carbon tax resolution that passed easily with 222 Republicans voting in favor. The Republican Party platform opposes “any carbon tax.” A large coalition of 90 conservatives organizations including Americans for Tax Reform, Club for Growth and Heritage Action recently penned a letter to Congress opposing all carbon taxes.

So why is an organization claiming to be conservative pushing policy overwhelmingly opposed by both the Republican Party and conservative organizations?

Simple. They’re not a conservative group, they only wear the mask of one.

Climate Leadership Council likes to boast of its plan as a “winning conservative climate solution.” Its website lists Jim Baker and George Shultz, two former Secretaries of State in Republican administrations, as the authors of the carbon tax plan and proof of the organization’s conservatives bonafides.

You may be forgiven for doubting that Baker and Shultz, age 89 and 99 respectively, are the architects of some ground-breaking, conservative climate plan. Such doubts are warranted, given that neither Baker nor Shultz designed the plan. We know this because an identical carbon tax has been pushed by left-wing organizations since at least 2015 – two years before CLC was even founded.

The leaked emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Director, reveal that the Clinton campaign considered and rejected a carbon tax and dividend plan designed by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think tank founded by Podesta. The leaked emails were a blow to carbon tax advocates at the time because Podesta offered a rather blunt political assessment: “We have done extensive polling on a carbon tax. It all sucks."

But the emails also reveal the origin of CLC’s carbon tax and “dividend” plan. A March 2015 memo prepared for Podesta by CAP staffers details a $40 carbon tax (2012 USD) where “the revenue would be directly returned to households.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because CLC’s carbon “dividend” plan also calls for a $40 per ton carbon tax “where net proceeds from the carbon fee will be returned to the American people.”

There are only two possible scenarios; either 99-year-old George Shultz coincidently drafted the same carbon tax policy as John Podesta, or CLC is recycling old policy from the Center for American Progress trash heap and selling it as a conservative plan.

A closer look at CLC’s plan makes it impossible to ignore the left’s fingerprints. Noah Kaufman of the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) recently released a study promoting the carbon dividend plan and testified before Congress in favor of CLC’s carbon dividends plan. Prior to promoting this “conservative” carbon tax, Kaufman served at the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Obama Administration. While at the Obama White House, Kaufman served under CEQ’s Managing Director, Christy Goldfuss – who is now the Sr. Vice President of Environmental Policy at CAP. This is the “conservative” support behind CLC’s legislation on Capitol Hill.

Carbon taxes have long been a goal of the environmental left and the carbon “dividend” is not some new conservative idea. Only the political realities have changed. Climate Leadership Council was founded in February 2017, a few weeks after Republicans gained control of the House, Senate and the Oval Office. Carbon tax advocates needed a Republican focused lobbying effort and CLC was born.

The good news: Republicans have not fallen for CLC’s deception. Last month, after Ted Halstead penned an op-ed in the Washington Post promoting carbon taxes, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) responded with a  letter to the editor stating, “new taxes and higher consumer energy costs are neither winning nor workable. Americans routinely reject the idea that carbon taxes are the answer to lowering emissions.”

If Ted Halstead is looking to raise Americans’ taxes, he’s come to the wrong party.

Mike Palicz is the Federal Affairs Manager on Energy Policy at Americans for Tax Reform

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