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Mitt Romney fought back against surging rival Newt Gingrich, fresh off a South Carolina primary win, during the Jan. 23 debate in Tampa. To emphasize his credibility as a conservative leader, Romney brought up how Gingrich resigned as speaker of the House "in disgrace," and that he's been "working as an influence peddler in Washington" in the years since. And another thing...
"When I was fighting against cap and trade, the speaker was sitting down with Nancy Pelosi on a sofa encouraging it," Romney said.
Ouch. If you're a GOP presidential contender, it'd be hard to think of a more toxic couch-fellow than Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and a former speaker herself.
But the bipartisan canoodling happened.
We know because we've examined this line in some form twice this campaign season. It's been used by super PACs supporting Romney and departed candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Back in 2008 in a television ad, Pelosi and Gingrich sat on a couch and had a smiley chat about climate change:
"We don’t always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?" Pelosi says.
"No," Gingrich answers, "but we do agree: Our country must take action to address climate change."
Pelosi: "We need cleaner forms of energy, and we need them fast."
Gingrich: "If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need."
The ad directs viewers to the website WeCanSolveIt.org, with the final words from Pelosi, "Together, we can do this."
The commercial was created by a climate-change awareness organization now known as the Climate Reality Project, which former vice president Al Gore founded. (WeCanSolveIt.org is the old name of the site now called ClimateRealityProject.org.)
Gingrich and Pelosi were asked to do the bit as part of a larger campaign featuring unlikely pairs who can agree on the need to act on climate change, Gore said in an interview with The Young Turks, an online news show, in December 2011.
Gingrich has since renounced the collaboration, saying in a Fox News interview in November that it was "probably the dumbest single thing I've ever done." A section of his website called "Answering the Attacks" says, "Newt absolutely opposes 'cap and trade' as well as any system of taxing carbon emissions."
What is cap and trade? The idea is that the government sets a limit (the cap) on how much carbon different companies can emit. The government then issues permits to businesses - typically electric utilities and manufacturers - and allows them to buy and sell the permits as needed (the trade). If the policy works as planned, overall emissions decline, companies determine for themselves the best way to lower emissions, and the free market rewards those that lower emissions most effectively.
The Gingrich and Pelosi ad didn't specifically mention cap and trade, but our previous research has shown Gingrich supported cap and trade as recently as 2007. Romney said that Gingrich was sitting on the couch encouraging cap and trade, but Gingrich didn't specifically mention the policy in that ad.
This brings us to the second part of the claim, that while Gingrich was couch sitting, Romney was "fighting against cap and trade."
Like Gingrich, Romney has changed his public statements on cap and trade. As Massachusetts governor in 2003, Romney joined in support of a compact among several northeastern states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. In a letter to then-New York Gov. George Pataki, he said, "I concur that climate change is beginning to affect our natural resources and that now is the time to take action toward climate protection." The Economist named him a "Climate-Friendly" Republican in 2004.
But in 2005, the same day he announced he would not seek re-election, Romney abruptly pulled out of the regional cap-and-trade agreement. He told the New York Times the pact did not protect businesses and consumers from increased energy costs. Environmental advocates fumed.
Let's recap: Gingrich certainly appeared in a 2008 video with Pelosi and said "we must take action to address climate change." He didn't specifically promote cap and trade, though he had supported it in the past. It's also true that Romney rejected what was hailed as a landmark regional cap-and-trade agreement among several northeastern states in 2005 -- although it came after two years of him touting its merit. Both facets of Romney's claim are factual, though they did not occur simultaneously, as his use "while" would suggest. They actually were three years apart. We rate Romney's claim Half True.
"Democrats take jabs at Romney's record," The Boston Globe, Sept. 22, 2009, accessed via Nexis
"Greenhouse Gas Pact is in Disarray," The New York Times, Dec. 16, 2005
"Newt Gingrich claims he 'never favored cap and trade,'" PolitiFact, Dec. 7, 2011
"Attack ad says Newt Gingrich aligned with Dems on global warming," PolitiFact, Dec. 21, 2011
"Mitt Romney's views on climate change have changed, says DNC," PolitiFact, Nov. 30, 2011
"Pro-Perry super PAC says Gingrich teamed with Pelosi on global warming," PolitiFact, Dec. 23, 2011
Telegram and Gazette, Romney joins bid to curb emissions, Aug. 6, 2003, accessed via Nexis
The Economist, Schwarzenegger v. Bush, Sept. 30, 2004
The New York Times, Greenhouse Gas Pact Is in Disarray, Dec. 16, 2005
The Boston Globe, Mass. pulls out of agreement to cut power plant emissions, Dec. 15, 2005, accessed via Nexis
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