WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans are shrugging off Pope Francis' call for urgent action on climate change and dismissing his attempt to frame global warming as a moral issue.
"No, I'm sorry, it's a political issue," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. "Most people have their minds made up on this issue so any more rhetoric about the issue doesn't really add a heck of a lot more to it."
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment Committee and Congress' leading global warming skeptic, said he disagreed with "the pope's philosophy on global warming." He also warned that the pope's encyclical will be used by "alarmists" to push policies that will lead to a tax increase that would hit the poor hardest.
And Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who chairs the House spending subcommittee that deals with the environment, said: "We respect the pope's point of view, but it's not the final determination, is it?"
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, simply said the pope is not afraid to challenge thinking on various issues, and "I respect his right to speak out on this important issue."
In his encyclical, Pope Francis called for a bold cultural revolution, framing climate change as an urgent moral issue and blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most.
Citing Scripture, his predecessors and bishops from around the world, the pope urged people of every faith and even no faith to undergo an awakening to save God's creation for future generations.
GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush questioned the pope's foray into climate science, saying "I don't think we should politicize our faith."
Taken together, the congressional and political reaction raised questions about whether the pope, who will address Congress in September, would succeed in spurring real action to combat climate change.
Bishop said he had not yet read the document, but said: "Everyone has the right to weigh in on any topic they want to, they should be considered with deference, but there is some kind of a separation of church and state. I'm going to respect that and make sure we move forward in an orderly fashion whatever we do."
Bishop said any hearings he holds on global warming will be focused on how land management and budget cuts can ameliorate greenhouse gases.
"If and when we go forward with something, land management practices that can help our environment, those have to be emphasized, and I doubt that's part of his statement," Bishop said.