Ocasio-Cortez, progressives express disappointment with climate panel

Democrats are getting their special committee on climate change next year, but it won't be the plan climate activists and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWill Democrats attempt to pack the Supreme Court again? On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline McCarthy says there will be a peaceful transition if Biden wins MORE (D-N.Y.) championed.

Likely future House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Will Democrats attempt to pack the Supreme Court again? MORE (D-Calif.) announced Friday that the committee, to be named the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis, will be chaired by Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium Trump courts Florida voters with moratorium on offshore drilling MORE (D-Fla.).

“She will bring great experience, energy and urgency to the existential threat of the climate crisis,” Pelosi said in a statement announcing Castor’s new role. “This committee will be critical to the entire Congress’s mission to respond to the urgency of this threat, while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In a statement Castor promised the new panel will reflect the “urgency to reduce carbon pollution” and will emphasize the creation of clean energy jobs.

Castor has previously said the panel will pull ideas from the Green New Deal — a comprehensive plan to fight climate change championed by millennial activists along with Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives.

But the panel isn't expected to have some of the powers demanded by progressive, such as subpoena power or legislative authority — meaning it can't pass bills to the floor for a full House vote.

Castor also refused to mandate that all committee members reject political contributions from fossil fuel companies, saying it would violate the First Amendment.

Progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez’s office, already are criticizing the new panel as an insufficient step forward.

“This committee, if it turns out that the rumors about it are true, sounds about as useful as a screen door on a submarine,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez. “As it’s portrayed it’s going to be completely incapable of solving the greatest threat to human kind.”

He blamed Democratic leaders for not listening to the demands from incoming freshman focused on addressing climate change.

“Leadership in general is about listening to the voices of the people you're supposed to be leading and I don’t believe this process incorporated that very effectively,” Trent said.

Pelosi was caught between incoming members and veterans of Congress on the issues.

A number of lawmakers on standing committees viewed the Green New Deal with heavy skepticism and worried that it would overlap with their committees’ own goals to address climate change.

Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PallonePharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems MORE, who will chair the House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce committees, respectively, have vocally criticized the select committee. Grijalva supported the Green New Deal only if it had no legislative authority.

“The select committee is set up largely the same way it was last time which led to Waxman-Markey, the boldest, most comprehensive legislation that Congress has advanced in this regard ever,” a senior Democratic aide said in response to questions about the criticism.

“The Green New Deal gets into things that are completely unrelated to climate so it was always an unworkable construct.”

Now-Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyA game theorist's advice to President Trump on filling the Supreme Court seat Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing MORE (D-Mass.) chaired the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming between 2007 and 2011. Its key achievement was a comprehensive climate bill that squeaked by the House but failed to be picked up in the Senate.

That committee did have subpoena power. It was used at least once in 2008 when the committee voted to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President George W. Bush to disclose its progress on formulating climate change rules for automobiles.

More than 43 lawmakers pledged their support to the Green New Deal, the brainchild of the millennial-lead Sunrise Movement. It was backed largely by incoming lawmakers, including high-profile Rep.-elects Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibTrump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' George Conway: 'Trump is like a practical joke that got out of hand' Pelosi endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary challenge MORE (D-Mich.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyEnding the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE (D-Mass.) and Ocasio-Cortez.

The House has yet to announce the panel’s membership and it’s possible some of the supporters of the Green New Deal will ultimately be asked and assigned to the climate crisis committee. But supporters say they aren't optimistic based on the limited interaction their offices have so far had with Pelosi's.

“It’s disappointing” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds On The Money: Half of states deplete funds for Trump's 0 unemployment expansion | EU appealing ruling in Apple tax case | House Democrats include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package The movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point MORE (D-Calif.), an outspoken supporter of the Green New Deal.

“These freshman are clearly the most connected to the grass roots of our party — their social media presence speaks to their extraordinary reach in our base. So empowering them is showing our grass-roots supporters that we are hearing their voices.”

He said Pelosi’s decision represented a missed opportunity for the Democratic Party, which since the midterms has argued over how to address the looming threat of global warming.

“Politics has changed. The currency of seniority matters far less than the availability of voices to change the system and having a bold vision,” he said. “What a statement that would have been to put all four freshman on that committee. I think that would have been a big statement that the new generation is being heard. Instead it was a missed opportunity.”

Leaders of the Sunrise Movement have vowed to make action on climate change a litmus test for future 2020 candidates.

While they said it was always going to be tough to get leadership to back a climate change panel that encompassed all of Green New Deal's demands, they say Pelosi’s chairmanship announcement Friday indicated how out of touch senior leadership is with young voters.

“We were aware the select committee on the Green New Deal was a long shot,” said Stephen O'Hanlon, communications director for the Sunrise Movement. “The proposal for a Green New Deal came out of a real sober look at what the latest UN Climate Report says which is we have 12 years to change our economy to stop climate change. ... It's deeply disappointing that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment has not taken a stand against fossil fuel companies who bankroll Congress.”

He said the group plans to expand country-wide in an effort to push lawmakers at every level to adopt rapid and powerful strategies to address climate change and convert to renewable energy-driven power grids.

“We’re going to keep growing the movement and pressure all politicians — city, state, and especially the 2020 contenders — to make it clear to whoever is running in 2020 that if they want to be taken seriously by our generation, they need to reject fossil fuel money and back the Green New Deal,” O’Hanlon said.