Democrats try to reset climate debate after Green New Deal defeat

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Friday, March 29, 2019

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks to members of the media following a Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

On the heels of the Green New Deal’s defeat in the Senate, Democrats tried to prove they would not give up on tackling climate change — an issue that has energized their base and that they think is a political winner for them.

Even though the nonbinding resolution to drastically curb climate-warming emissions over the next 10 years will not move forward, Democrats sought to put the onus back on Republicans. They renewed calls for the White House and Republican lawmakers to start taking seriously what they, and much of the scientific community, see as a crisis that could imperil future generations.

Senate Democrats, most of whom voted “present” on the vote they decried as a “sham” forced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), came back Wednesday to announce they would form a “Special Committee on the Climate Crisis”  — made up only of Democrats.

The panel will be composed of 10 Democrats, with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) leading it. While the group will be not a formal committee in the GOP-led chamber, it will still meet, call in experts to testify and even issue a report in July 2020 on the costs of inaction.

Schatz acknowledged the move was unusual for a party in the minority, but insisted these are “unusual times” given “the total unwillingness of Senate Republicans to take this issue seriously.”

“We just made the judgment that the planet can’t wait,” he added. “Waiting around for Mitch McConnell to change his mind on climate seems reckless.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), took things a step further by introducing a billaimed at stopping the United States from withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement that President Barack Obama’s administration brokered in 2015.

But the GOP did not show any signs of relinquishing its campaign against the Green New Deal spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that would that would dramatically reshape the economy, and continued using it as a cudgel against Democrats in an effort to label them as socialists.

And Senate Republicans had earlier this week blocked a resolution from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday to formally create a bipartisan climate panel, arguing that there are committees in Congress to address environmental issues such as climate change.

“Democrats seem to think that adding a layer of bureaucracy is an answer to every problem,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). “That’s the same instinct that gave us the Green New Deal.”

Even so, Schumer threatened to use whatever “leverage” his party had in the minority, such as filibusters, to address the causes and effects of climate change given that “this is such a crisis,” he said. “We’re looking for any way we can move it forward.”

Schumer hoped to include climate-related measures within other bills, including for infrastructure, taxes and the federal budget.

Like Schumer, Pelosi called the introduction of her bill on the Paris accord “only step one” for House Democrats on climate change. Using her new power in the majority, she has impaneled her own select climate committee after Republicans disbanded a similar one when they were in control of the chamber.

Under the Paris agreement, nations voluntarily set targets for reductions on greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement is still popular with Democrats, with Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), head of the select climate committee, calling it a “breakthrough” when introducing the bill with Pelosi.

The bill, which stands a good chance of passing the House but not the Senate, would prevent the federal government from spending any money toward the withdrawal, which President Trump promised to do only a few months into his term. It would also compel Trump come up with a plan for meeting the United States’ Paris targets.

The earliest opportunity Trump has to make the withdrawal official is November 2020, when he is up for reelection.

Yet House Republicans are still looking to find ways to divide Democrats on the Green New Deal.

GOP representatives, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), said Wednesday they plan to use a parliamentary maneuver to bring the Green New Deal to the floor of the House, too. Like in the Senate, the move is designed force House Democrats to take a stance for or against the bill.