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Florida GOP Rep. Francis Rooney set to co-chair bipartisan House climate change caucus

Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., has been appointed co-chairman of the Climate Solutions Caucus, positioning him as the leading House Republican advocating for government policy to combat global warming.

The caucus and its Democratic co-chairman, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., have not yet officially announced Rooney’s appointment. But Rooney confirmed to the Washington Examiner he will be co-chair the caucus this session of Congress, after other Republican climate hawks, such as Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., rallied behind him.

“It’s important we show that at least some Republicans do feel the climate is changing, recognize we are at risk of sea level rise, and are willing to work with whoever it takes to deal with it,” Rooney told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “We used to own environment issues, and now we have traded places with Democrats on that. As a Republican, I would like to see us adapt to the future and broaden our base as opposed to becoming extinct.”

Fitzpatrick, the only other Republican interested in the leadership role, ceded it to Rooney.

“Congressman Rooney is a great legislator and a great friend, and his appointment as co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus is welcome news,” Fitzpatrick told the Washington Examiner. “A leader in the fight against climate change, Francis’ leadership will be instrumental in expanding the ranks of the Climate Solutions Caucus. I look forward to working with him over the next two years to advance bipartisan, pragmatic solutions to this critical issue.”

Rooney replaces Carlos Curbelo, who created the Climate Solutions Caucus in February 2016 with Deutch to “explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Deutch’s office did not provide comment for this story.

Rooney is also jockeying to be named the top Republican on a new climate change committeethat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created.

But Rooney said he hopes that panel, called the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, works cooperatively with the caucus, which is not a formal committee.

The Climate Solutions Caucus suffered huge losses of Republican members in November’s midterm elections, including Curbelo, who lost a competitive race in his left-leaning South Florida district.

But the remaining 20 or so GOP members who won re-election, led by Rooney and Fitzpatrick, have vowed to rebuild it rather than fold, as some Democratic critics would prefer. At its peak before the election, the caucus had 90 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Rooney, a 65-year-old congressman first elected in 2016, has quickly emerged as a leading caucus member, even though he represents a safe Republican district, Florida’s 19th — easily won by climate change skeptic President Trump. He joined the caucus only in October.

He burnished his credentials by co-sponsoring a carbon tax bill introduced last summer by Curbelo that would have mostly used the revenue for infrastructure investments.