DNC tells Inslee it won't host climate debate

DNC tells Inslee it won't host climate debate

Democratic presidential hopeful and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE announced Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is rebuffing his repeated entreaties for a primary debate focused on climate change. 

"Today, my team received a call from the Democratic National Committee letting us know that they will not host a climate debate. Further, they explained that if we participated in anyone else's climate debate, we will not be invited to future debates," Inslee said in a statement.

"This is deeply disappointing. The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time. Democratic voters say that climate change is their top issue; the Democratic National Committee must listen to the grassroots of the party," Inslee added. 

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Climate change has emerged as an animating issue among Democrats, with several 2020 candidates unveiling sweeping plans to reverse alarming environmental trends. An April poll found that 82 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said climate change is a “very important” top priority they’d like to see get the focus of a presidential candidate.

"We are running out of time. We've kicked the can down the road for too long. The climate crisis merits a full discussion of our plans, not a short exchange of talking points. The next President must make defeating this crisis the top priority of the nation," Inslee said Wednesday 

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told The Hill the committee has emphasized to media partners the importance of climate change in the election but that the party's goal is to have a rigorous discussion on issues like health care and the economy, alongside climate change.

"While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters," she said in a statement to the Hill.

The Washington governor, who has cast climate change as the centerpiece of his White House bid and released a slate of policies to implement a green economy, sent a letter to DNC Chairman Tom Perez Tuesday urging the party to "ensure that the climate crisis is on the agenda." 

"The Democratic Party’s response to climate change cannot only be a few quick questions in the first debates where, in 60 seconds, candidates merely agree that this issue is important, and move on," Inslee wrote. "We need a full debate to really wrestle with who has the best plans to defeat this existential crisis, who has demonstrated the commitment it will take to get this job done, and who understands the scale of ambition necessary to see this mission through to completion."

Several other 2020 candidates and a handful of environmental groups had echoed Inslee’s call for a climate-specific debate.