Progressives say dire climate reports point to need for ‘Green New Deal’

Progressive House lawmakers are pointing to last week’s damning climate report as proof that Democrats next year must create a new special committee focused solely on finding a solution to warming temperatures.

Supporters of the Green New Deal — an idea to create a committee that would aim to get the country to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years — are hoping the dire report issued by the Trump administration will ease party infighting and get skeptical Democratic members on board.

“If anything these reports signify how much this special committee is needed,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Bloomberg's 2020 moves draw ire from Democrats Sanders: Potential Bloomberg run shows 'arrogance of billionaires' Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez see 'class solidarity' in report Bezos asked Bloomberg to run MORE (D-N.Y.).

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Ocasio-Cortez timed the proposal for the committee with a sit-in earlier this month at the office of House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Klobuchar: 'I have seen no reason why' Hunter Biden would need to testify Johnson dismisses testimony from White House officials contradicting Trump as 'just their impression' MORE (D-Calif.), the likely Speaker next year. She argued that the reinstitution of the old House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that ran from 2007 to 2011 — suggested earlier this month by Pelosi — needed to have a stronger focus.

Fifteen lawmakers currently support establishing the special committee, which would work outside the House Energy and Commerce and Science and Natural Resources committees and have its own authority to write and pass legislation.

Ocasio-Cortez’s allies think the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the Trump administration the day after Thanksgiving, could push the Democratic party into their corner.

“I think it will catalyze political action nationally and in Congress,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats aim to impeach Trump by Christmas Pressure builds on Pompeo as impeachment inquiry charges ahead Democrats set stage for Watergate-style TV hearings MORE (D-Md.).

When asked if the report would help his colleagues back the Green New Deal, Rep.-elect Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseKatie Hill calls out a 'double standard' in final floor speech This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill Rep. Katie Hill resigns amid ethics probe MORE (D-Colo.) said, “I hope it does.”

“I hope it pushes every American to recognize just how much of an existential threat climate change really is and the need for a comprehensive set of policy solutions that I think ultimately are large enough in scale to deal with this planetary crisis that is outlined in the report.”

The congressionally-mandated report forecast grave impacts from climate change across the nation and on the U.S. economy. It estimated that by 2100, climate could cause billions of dollars of lost economic activity and thousands of lives each year.

Democrats who want to convene a Green New Deal committee say it’s exactly what’s needed to confront such an urgent and daunting threat.

“The Green New Deal is compelling because it is bold in dealing with climate change and it would also create jobs, and it helps link pro-environmental policies with job creation in rural America and places left behind,” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Health Care: CDC links vitamin E oil to vaping illnesses | White House calls Pelosi drug price plan 'unworkable' | Dem offers bill for state-based 'Medicare for All' Justice Democrats official denies that progressives struggle with electability Progressive House Democrat unveils bill to allow state-based 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Calif.).

Members supporting the special committee hope the dire report will make clear the need to tackle climate change on a number of fronts — and by a number of committees.

They say they are looking to the 2006 committee led by former Rep. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid States, green groups challenge rollback of Obama-era lightbulb rules Overnight Energy: Dems ask Trump UN ambassador to recuse from Paris climate dealings | Green group sues agencies for records on climate science | Dem wants answers on Keystone oil spill MORE (D-Mass.) — now one of his state’s two senators — for inspiration.

“What you had there was a new select committee that had the urgency and the ability to message and get testimony and get the attention of the American public but it was done with great respect to the jurisdiction of the other committees,” said Khanna.

But top Democrats set to take control of key House committees next year remain unmoved.

Those lawmakers agree urgent action must be done on climate, but think their panels can handle the workload.

“I support moving aggressively towards trying to reduce greenhouse gases. I’m just concerned that a select committee becomes a delaying tactic and that it just becomes another layer of bureaucracy that we don’t need,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who is slated to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose responsibilities include overseeing the EPA.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), likely future chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, backs a select committee but doesn’t want it to have legislative power.

“The urgency is there. It shouldn’t take a select committee to point that out. And major legislation is going to be required regardless,” Grijalva said. “Regardless of the select committee or not, we’re going to do what we need to do.”

Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoAdvocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' from major defense policy bill Unlikely allies push horse racing reform MORE (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee, said he remains worried that another climate panel would interfere with the work members are already eager to get to on their already existing committees.

“The span of climate change reaches across several committees and subcommittees, they should be allowed to do their work and to hold hearings,” Tonko said.

“Many of us have been doing alternative activities like roundtable discussions and various outreach efforts, such as drafting legislation and talking to groups, so that when the appropriate time comes, when we have majority status — which is going to be the case — we can move without delay.”

But environmental groups think the more the merrier when it comes to groups focused on global warming. Many also are skeptical that the existing committees will address the dire reports with as much urgency as necessary.

“I think it’s really a signal the Democrats and anyone in House leadership that this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, which means proposing solutions that match the scale of the problem. I really see this as a clarion call,” said Janet Redman, climate director at Greenpeace.