This past week, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that she would revive the Select Committee on Climate Change that was disbanded when the GOP took over Congress in 2010. The move was initially cheered by the radical Justice Democrats group, which is pushing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be a member.
But Pelosi pulled the select committee’s teeth by refusing to give it subpoena power and preventing it from writing any legislation. Further, she named Rep. Kathy Castor as chair. Castor is not a member of the Progressive Caucus and has accepted donations from fossil fuel companies. This flew in the face of demands by the Justice Democrats that only those members who did not accept donations from energy companies be allowed to sit on the committee.
Ocasio-Cortez is one of the major boosters of the “Green New Deal” that seeks to wean America from all fossil fuels by 2030 in order to address the “climate crisis.” How that could be accomplished isn’t made clear, except that the entire $15 trillion American economy would have to be “restructured.”
What could possibly go wrong?
Needless to say, this battle between the somewhat radical Democrats and the very radical Democrats will spill over into the Democratic presidential nominating contest.
Support for the Green New Deal is showing signs of becoming a liberal litmus test among Democrats who may run for president. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently endorsed it, joining Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Rising support for this approach could shape the work of the House’s climate panel. Nearly 40 House Democrats agree that the committee should focus its efforts on making the Green New Deal a reality. A proposal from Ocasio-Cortez and the youth-driven Sunrise Movement sets a March 2020 deadline for the panel to come up with legislation.
Pelosi announced on Friday that Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), a longtime ally of environmentalists, will lead the select panel.
“She will bring great experience, energy and urgency to the existential threat of the climate crisis,” Pelosi said in a statement. “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. “
That may be, but the Justice Democrats issued a press release questioning the commitment of Pelosi and the Democratic leadership:
Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership seem to be pushing forward a weak Select Committee that has no subpoena power, that allows participation from members of Congress who take donations from the fossil fuel industry, and that has no explicit goals regarding the mass economic mobilization needed to match the UN’s recommendations on scale and timeline.
It’s extremely disappointing that the current proposal may be even weaker than Pelosi’s previous Select Committee on climate in 2007. Democratic leadership still has time to create a Select Committee on a Green New Deal and support a serious proposal that holds fossil fuel billionaires accountable and is based on what science demands.
The party of the resistance can’t take the path of least resistance on climate and inequality.
“Mass economic mobilization” to combat a problem whose urgency is, at the very least, questionable? Please, Democrats, make the “Green New Deal” the centerpiece of your presidential campaign in 2020.
Rep. Frank Pallone, who will head the Energy and Commerce Committee, isn’t convinced either:
“The goal of trying to reduce fossil fuels and get to a carbon-neutral economy is important and something that I agree with. The question is how long it takes to do that,” he said recently, according to the Asbury Park Press. “The Green New Deal says you can do it in 10 years. I don’t know if that’s technologically feasible . . . Beyond that, it’s probably not politically feasible.”
On one side, you have Democrats like Pallone who want to take baby steps on the issue, largely for political reasons, and on the other, you have Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez who don’t care about what’s “politically feasible” and want to blow up the economy to save the planet… or something.
It should be entertaining to watch how this “Green New Deal” issue plays out over the next two years.