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Schwarzenegger Says Denying Climate Change Is a 'Betrayal'

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Gov. Jerry Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger walk in the state Capitol in 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After launching an online tool to help governments write environmental legislation, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger defended a state Republican leader who recently provided critical GOP votes to Gov. Jerry Brown's cap-and-trade bill.

AB 398 extended the life of California's cap-and-trade program until 2030. The system allows companies to purchase permits to release greenhouse gas emissions, with money generated from those sales being used to fund efforts to clean the environment.

Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes has faced furious criticism from his own party after negotiating with the Brown administration to help make the cap-and-trade bill palatable to enough GOP legislators to pass the bill. Critics have described Mayes as a kind of Benedict Arnold who betrayed his party.

"Anyone against cleaning the environment and saving lives -- there's the betrayal, not the other way around" Schwarzenegger told KQED on a phone call. "What's happened is fantastic for the Republican Party in California. It will help them get more votes."

Schwarzenegger, who attended the ceremony where Gov. Brown signed the legislation two weeks ago, acknowledged the risk Republicans like Mayes face in ignoring opposition to environmental regulations.

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Noting that the Republican Party has shrunk in California, Schwarzenegger said, "Whenever you do something that's a little out there, it's risky. You take a beating. That's the definition of great leadership."

He wasn't finished.

"Politicians have to make a decision," he added. "Do they want to be a party hack, servants to the party? Or do they want to be the people's servant?"

After Assemblyman Mayes delivered enough Assembly Republican votes to ensure Gov. Brown a major legislative victory, some GOP leaders, such as RNC Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon from San Francisco, called on Mayes to step down as minority leader. So far at least, Mayes has survived challenges to his leadership.

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