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-CortezOvernight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? 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 PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments 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 RaskinDem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Congress and contempt: What you need to know MORE (D-Md.).

When asked if the report would help his colleagues back the Green New Deal, Rep.-elect Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseWho are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? Warren, Nadler introduce bill to allow student loan borrowers bankruptcy relief The gap in Sen. Gardner's environmental record 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) KhannaDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Congress must use upcoming defense bills to guard against a confrontation with Iran 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 MarkeyHillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments 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 TonkoBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Measure would force EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in water | Emails show Trump official consulted climate deniers | Democrats urge Puerto Rico to reject debt deal for power company 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.