New House Rules chairman aims to bridge Dems’ divide on climate

Source: Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The incoming House Rules Committee chairman has waded into the Democratic debate over how to proceed with climate policy.

In an intervew, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) sought to repair the growing rift between recently elected lawmakers pushing to form a select committee to address the issue and presumptive committee chairs who have pushed to keep climate legislation in their domain.

“I think you could do both,” McGovern said. “The traditional committees should do hearings, and obviously work on legislative proposals. A select committee could bring in members who aren’t traditionally involved. Climate change is a big issue, and I think if we’re going to get something done we’re going to have to build consensus and have as many people involved as possible.”

McGovern is currently the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee. As the committee’s chairman, he would play a key role in setting the party’s agenda in the upcoming session of Congress, deciding what bills come to the floor for a vote.

Climate has been at the center of a power struggle between recently elected House members and a contingent of likely committee chairs (Climatewire, Nov. 16). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected member from New York and rising star on the party’s left, endorsed calls for a select committee at a protest outside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office last week. Ocasio-Cortez has called for a committee to draft a “Green New Deal” (Climatewire, Nov. 14).

Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is pushing to become speaker next Congress, has called for reviving the select committee. But Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat in line to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has pushed back on the idea. Pallone has said his committee is willing and ready to tackle climate legislation (E&E Daily, Nov. 14).

Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the ranking members of the Natural Resources and Science, Space and Technology committees, respectively, have also pledged to hold hearings on the subject (Greenwire, Nov. 14).

This is not the first time Democrats have traded barbs over a climate committee. The last time the party was in the majority, Pelosi’s select committee on climate change drew the ire of then-Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who was lukewarm toward climate action (Climatewire, Nov. 13).

The dynamic is different today, McGovern said.

“Frank Pallone is very much committed to dealing with the issue of climate change,” McGovern said. “And I think many of the people on Energy and Commerce share his views. That is a good thing.”

At the same time, Energy and Commerce has a busy agenda and handles far more than just energy issues, McGovern said. A select committee could be helpful in promoting climate issues and offering proposals that could then be worked through the traditional committees, he said.

“We ought to keep our eye on the ball, which is not only raise awareness on this issue, but get many people working together to find solution,” McGovern said, noting Democrats’ task will be made more difficult by Senate Republicans and President Trump. “We need to amplify this debate and show the American people we’re serious about making progress.”