Democrats are getting their special committee on climate change next year, but it won’t be the plan climate activists and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBloomberg: 2020 candidates ‘better darn well’ have climate plan Ocasio-Cortez shares photo of new office plaque with J. Lo tribute Climate change denial is killing the GOP’s future MORE (D-N.Y.) championed.
Likely future House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiFormer MSNBC host says midterms marked turning point for Democrats Meadows on CNN: ‘We could be in for a very long-term shudown’ Retiring GOP lawmaker: Trump ‘fell in line’ behind Hannity on border wall MORE (D-Calif.) announced Friday that the committee, to be named the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis, will be chaired by Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorBloomberg: 2020 candidates ‘better darn well’ have climate plan Likely chairwoman defends House climate panel from critics Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis MORE (D-Fla.).
“She will bring great experience, energy and urgency to the existential threat of the climate crisis,” Pelosi said in a statement announcing Castor’s new role. “This committee will be critical to the entire Congress’s mission to respond to the urgency of this threat, while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future.”
In a statement Castor promised the new panel will reflect the “urgency to reduce carbon pollution” and will emphasize the creation of clean energy jobs.
Castor has previously said the panel will pull ideas from the Green New Deal — a comprehensive plan to fight climate change championed by millennial activists along with Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives.
But the panel isn’t expected to have some of the powers demanded by progressive, such as subpoena power or legislative authority — meaning it can’t pass bills to the floor for a full House vote.
Castor also refused to mandate that all committee members reject political contributions from fossil fuel companies, saying it would violate the First Amendment.
Progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez’s office, already are criticizing the new panel as an insufficient step forward.
“This committee, if it turns out that the rumors about it are true, sounds about as useful as a screen door on a submarine,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez. “As it’s portrayed it’s going to be completely incapable of solving the greatest threat to human kind.”
He blamed Democratic leaders for not listening to the demands from incoming freshman focused on addressing climate change.
“Leadership in general is about listening to the voices of the people you’re supposed to be leading and I don’t believe this process incorporated that very effectively,” Trent said.
Pelosi was caught between incoming members and veterans of Congress on the issues.
A number of lawmakers on standing committees viewed the Green New Deal with heavy skepticism and worried that it would overlap with their committees’ own goals to address climate change.
Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneBloomberg: 2020 candidates ‘better darn well’ have climate plan Lawmakers grow impatient with Facebook Incoming Dem chairman vows hearings on ObamaCare lawsuit ‘right away’ MORE, who will chair the House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce committees, respectively, have vocally criticized the select committee. Grijalva supported the Green New Deal only if it had no legislative authority.
“The select committee is set up largely the same way it was last time which led to Waxman-Markey, the boldest, most comprehensive legislation that Congress has advanced in this regard ever,” a senior Democratic aide said in response to questions about the criticism.
“The Green New Deal gets into things that are completely unrelated to climate so it was always an unworkable construct.”
Now-Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Senators introduce bipartisan carbon tax bill | House climate panel unlikely to have subpoena power | Trump officials share plan to prevent lead poisoning House climate change panel unlikely to have subpoena power GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander won’t seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.) chaired the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming between 2007 and 2011. Its key achievement was a comprehensive climate bill that squeaked by the House but failed to be picked up in the Senate.
That committee did have subpoena power. It was used at least once in 2008 when the committee voted to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President George W. Bush to disclose its progress on formulating climate change rules for automobiles.
More than 43 lawmakers pledged their support to the Green New Deal, the brainchild of the millennial-lead Sunrise Movement. It was backed largely by incoming lawmakers, including high-profile Rep.-elects Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIsrael boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate Liberal groups launch effort to get progressives on key House committees Democrats must stand up for Israel MORE (D-Mich.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyIncoming Dem Ayanna Pressley to work in her hero Shirley Chisholm’s old office after trade Incoming Dem challenges party to make ‘lasting, transformative change’ Dems rally for Green New Deal MORE (D-Mass.) and Ocasio-Cortez.
The House has yet to announce the panel’s membership and it’s possible some of the supporters of the Green New Deal will ultimately be asked and assigned to the climate crisis committee. But supporters say they aren’t optimistic based on the limited interaction their offices have so far had with Pelosi’s.
“It’s disappointing” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaIs Congress really that far behind on tech policy? No. Likely chairwoman defends House climate panel from critics Liberal groups launch effort to get progressives on key House committees MORE (D-Calif.), an outspoken supporter of the Green New Deal.
“These freshman are clearly the most connected to the grass roots of our party — their social media presence speaks to their extraordinary reach in our base. So empowering them is showing our grass-roots supporters that we are hearing their voices.”
He said Pelosi’s decision represented a missed opportunity for the Democratic Party, which since the midterms has argued over how to address the looming threat of global warming.
“Politics has changed. The currency of seniority matters far less than the availability of voices to change the system and having a bold vision,” he said. “What a statement that would have been to put all four freshman on that committee. I think that would have been a big statement that the new generation is being heard. Instead it was a missed opportunity.”
Leaders of the Sunrise Movement have vowed to make action on climate change a litmus test for future 2020 candidates.
While they said it was always going to be tough to get leadership to back a climate change panel that encompassed all of Green New Deal’s demands, they say Pelosi’s chairmanship announcement Friday indicated how out of touch senior leadership is with young voters.
“We were aware the select committee on the Green New Deal was a long shot,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, communications director for the Sunrise Movement. “The proposal for a Green New Deal came out of a real sober look at what the latest UN Climate Report says which is we have 12 years to change our economy to stop climate change. … It’s deeply disappointing that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment has not taken a stand against fossil fuel companies who bankroll Congress.”
He said the group plans to expand country-wide in an effort to push lawmakers at every level to adopt rapid and powerful strategies to address climate change and convert to renewable energy-driven power grids.
“We’re going to keep growing the movement and pressure all politicians — city, state, and especially the 2020 contenders — to make it clear to whoever is running in 2020 that if they want to be taken seriously by our generation, they need to reject fossil fuel money and back the Green New Deal,” O’Hanlon said.