GOP presidential hopefuls’ new enemy: the climate deal

December 15, 2015

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The global climate accord reached in Paris has given the Republican presidential field something new to rail against.

Speaking to supporters at a campaign event here ahead of the Republican debate Tuesday, Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, called the deal an “unfunny joke.”

Rubio said the pact, which calls on its signatories to voluntarily slice carbon emissions and mandates industrial nations to financially assist poorer, developing states, would result in the U.S. government raising taxes. He suggested the United States could end up subsidizing the carbon-reduction efforts of countries such as China.

His criticism follows that of Jim Inhofe, a senator from Oklahoma and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who said that the U.S. is not legally bound by the agreement.

A report earlier this year stated that Rubio’s home state of Florida has more private property at risk from flooding connected to climate change than any other U.S. state, and Rubio has conceded that sea levels are rising there. But he has consistently argued that additional government regulations or global accords are not the correct approach with which to combat the problem.

Rubio is locked in a fierce struggle with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for the hearts and minds of conservative voters. Both are hoping to benefit if the current front-runner, Donald Trump, falters.

A poll in Iowa by the Des Moines Register released Saturday had Cruz in first place there, ahead of Trump. Rubio was third. And a national poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News released Tuesday had Trump in front with 27 percent of the support of Republican primary voters, Cruz right behind at 22 percent and Rubio again in third place at 15 percent.

That was one reason why Monday’s event had Rubio lumping the climate pact in with Obamacare as an example of big government run amok.

Ron Owens of Las Vegas, who was among the 200 or so at hotel ballroom who had come to watch the candidate, is typical of the voter Rubio is chasing.

Owens, 66, a retired court administrator, said he is still deciding between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump. “I want somebody willing and able to take on the problems that we have,” Owens said. “I’m tired of political bulls-it.”

Trump, he said, appeals to him because he is self-funding his campaign. “If I put $1,000 dollars in your back pocket, it’s an IOU,” he said.

Still, Owens said Rubio impressed him. “I think the man speaks from the heart,” he said.

He plans to caucus in Nevada for the first time. The state’s contest, the first in the American West, will be held Feb. 23. Rubio, who lived in Las Vegas for several years as a child, is competing hard here.

The Republican debate, the final one of the year, will be held Tuesday evening at The Venetian hotel in Vegas. Trump, Cruz, and Rubio will be at center stage.

Republican U.S. presidential candidates Marco Rubio (L), Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz wait for the start of the Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

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