Dems say ‘I love you, I love you not’ to Green New Deal

Source: Mark K. Matthews, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, March 29, 2019

House Democrats yesterday introduced their latest proposal to fight climate change — without mentioning the Green New Deal.

At the bill’s crowded rollout, eight lawmakers — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — spoke about House Democrats’ plan to keep the United States in the landmark Paris climate agreement (Greenwire, March 27).

But not a single one referenced the Green New Deal. It’s an omission that speaks to the complicated relationship between congressional Democrats and the ambitious plan to tackle global warming with a massive public jobs program.

Two of the speakers, freshman Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, said afterward that the slight was not intentional.

“I cannot tell you why it wasn’t mentioned,” Johnson said. “That was not the subject matter. The subject matter was the Paris accord.”

But the omission was not lost on activists with the Sunrise Movement, an upstart environmental group that has fought for months to turn the Green New Deal into a household name.

“Yup. Not surprising,” Evan Weber, the group’s political director, wrote in a text message.

Later, he said it was OK — so long as congressional Democrats continue to press forward with legislation to fight climate change.

“We’re not doing this for credit,” he said.

The episode, however, underscores one of the biggest questions in climate politics — how much will the Green New Deal factor into future Democratic plans?

There are a few factors at play.

The first is that climate activists haven’t shied away from confronting Democratic lawmakers over the Green New Deal, such as last month’s feud — captured on video — between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and supporters of the climate plan (Climatewire, Feb. 25).

More of these battles could pull additional Democrats into the fold — or turn them away.

Then there’s the question of politics.

A poll conducted last fall found overwhelming support for the goals of the Green New Deal, though researchers with Yale and George Mason universities discovered that most people at that point hadn’t heard of the proposal.

Since then, the Green New Deal has become a favorite piñata of congressional Republicans, and not a single Senate Democrat voted Tuesday in support of a resolution that outlined its principal aims (Climatewire, March 27).

Most Senate Democrats voted “present,” including Green New Deal backers such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who called it a sham vote orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“I’m not going to participate in what I consider [an] all politics [vote] when there’s an urgent planetary peril for us to deal with,” Booker said.

But he gave credit to Green New Deal activists for elevating the discussion of climate change.

“The young folks who put this forward are trying to prick a debate, and they’ve definitely done that — a lot more people are talking about climate policy,” Booker said.

Weber said he is confident the Green New Deal will be an integral part of the Democratic platform — given that six senators running for president, including Booker, already have signed on as co-sponsors.

In all, more than 100 congressional Democrats have backed the Green New Deal. One of its main objectives is to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” within 10 years.

“It’s pretty clear to us that the choice in 2020 will be between the Green New Deal and Trump’s fossil fuel denialism,” Weber said. “And if Senate Democrats and House Democrats are smart, they will catch up with that.”

The next few months will offer several opportunities to do that — starting today with the first hearing of a new House committee on climate change.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) will lead the panel, and she underscored some of the key themes of the Green New Deal at yesterday’s bill introduction about the Paris Agreement — though she didn’t mention it by name.

“We can create millions of good-paying clean energy jobs right now,” Castor said. “We can save billions of dollars in energy costs for working people and businesses right now. We can finally address decades of environmental injustice right now. And we can respond to the incredible groundswell of activism from young people who are demanding climate action now, as well.”

Senate Democrats also unveiled plans yesterday to create their own panel on global warming — though that one will have little legislative power in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Its purpose would be to brainstorm ideas to deal with climate change — such as the goals outlined in the Green New Deal — but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued that its genesis wasn’t based on the swell of interest in that proposal.

“The issue has coalesced,” Schumer said. “We’ve seen the science. We’ve seen the changes in weather, and we think America is ready for good, strong, sweeping change now.”