Pelosi calls for climate action after retaking speaker’s gavel

Source: George Cahlink, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019

California Democrat Nancy Pelosi yesterday reclaimed the speakership of the House, emphasizing in her first address that the American people better understand the “urgency” to address climate change than Congress.

Pelosi did not offer specific policy proposals in a speech that mostly focused on Congress’ oversight role. But she highlighted the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that she created to hold hearings and make recommendations on how to address global warming.

“The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them. That is why we have created the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future,” Pelosi told the House chamber shortly after being elected.

Her remarks were met with sustained applause from Democrats. Pelosi called the climate crisis the “existential threat of our time,” which she said was highlighted by recent “epic” natural disasters.

The address was at least partly directed at people in the Trump administration and in the House GOP caucus who have questioned the science behind global warming. But Pelosi also hinted at a focus on green jobs, an issue that could draw bipartisan support.

“This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water, an economic decision for America’s global preeminence in green technology, a security decision to keep us safe, and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi, 78, who served as speaker from 2007 to 2011, retook the gavel with 220 votes out of 430 cast, giving her a narrow five-vote victory. A majority of the entire House is required to elect a speaker.

Fifteen Democrats voted against Pelosi, but they did not unite behind a single candidate. Other people who got votes were Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), former Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

Incoming Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) received 192 votes for speaker, largely uniting his caucus, although there were five votes for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch conservative who lost the minority leader contest late last year.

Pelosi only secured the job that places her second in line for the presidency after agreeing to, in effect, limit her second tour as speaker to four years. She also made concessions aimed at appeasing the party’s large class of incoming progressives, including the creation of the climate panel.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) gave a rousing nominating speech for Pelosi to cheers from Democrats as he ticked off a long list of legislative accomplishment in recent years.

Jeffries, however, made no specific mention of accomplishment on the environment or how Pelosi would seek to address climate change in the new Congress.

“Nancy Pelosi is just getting started,” Jeffries said. Referring to the speaker by her initials, he added, “Let me be clear, House Democrats are down with NDP.”

Many Democrats sported blue-and-white pins reading “Madam Speaker,” a nod to Pelosi’s historic role as the first female in that role.

Among those wearing a pin were incoming Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who in recent weeks has expressed frustration over Pelosi’s push for the select panel on climate.

Greens generally regard Pelosi favorably and have not forgotten her push to have the House pass carbon cap-and-trade legislation when she last served as speaker.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, welcomed the newfound focus on global warming from the House and said it signals a “new era of accountability” for combating the Trump administration’s “reckless” environmental policies.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune called Pelosi’s election a chance to restore “U.S. leadership on climate action.” He also cited her “tireless commitment” to protecting the environment.