Dems downplay divisions over Green New Deal

House Democrats on Thursday downplayed talk of any internal divisions over support for a Green New Deal plan and how bold the party should be in combating climate change.

Rep. 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.), the plan’s lead sponsor, pushed back Thursday afternoon on the appearance of party infighting between senior Democratic leadership — namely Speaker 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.) — and herself over how best to address the climate crisis.

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Speaking alongside Sen. 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.) during the highly anticipated rollout of her Green New Deal resolution, Ocasio-Cortez said the party was “100 percent in this together.”

“Nancy Pelosi is the leader on climate change, she has always been a leader on climate and I will not allow our caucus to be divided up on silly notions, we are in this together. We are 100 percent in this together,” she told reporters at the press conference. “We have different solutions, different mechanisms, different cars we have to drive to get there."

Her remarks contrasted with comments a day earlier from Pelosi, who appeared to diminish the significance of the Green New Deal.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said in an interview with Politico. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?”

Pelosi struck a decidedly different tone on Thursday after the resolution was introduced. She hailed the zeal of the liberal supporters pushing the plan, but still stopped short of endorsing the Green New Deal.

“Quite frankly, I haven’t seen it, but I do know that it’s enthusiastic,” she said during a press briefing that started at 10:45 a.m. 

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The resolution was made public about four hours earlier.

“We welcome all the enthusiams that are out there,” Pelosi said.

Earlier in the day, after the resolution had been released, Pelosi named eight House Democrats to a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — timing that some viewed as an attempt to somewhat overshadow the rollout of the Green New Deal.

Some backers of the Green New Deal said they were shocked that Pelosi announced the climate change committee members on the same day as the Green New Deal introduction.

One source with knowledge of the rollout said there was an expectation that the committee member announcement from Pelosi would come the following week.

“Our understanding is that she was going to drop it next week, and she choose to do it today as she was hearing this was being announced,” said the source. 

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, disputed that account.

“No, it was never planned for next week,” he told The Hill.

The climate panel will not include Ocasio-Cortez, who had fought — unsuccessfully — to ensure the committee was empowered to draft legislation that would help lay out a path to accomplish the Green New Deal goals.

“The American people have spoken, and demanded bold action to take on the climate crisis, which is the existential threat of our time,” Pelosi said in a Thursday statement announcing the panel’s roster, led by Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorSteyer group targeting 12 congressional Democrats over impeachment Steyer group targeting 12 congressional Democrats over impeachment Two years after Trump's Paris climate move, frustrated Democrats eye 2020 MORE (D-Fla.).

“We are thrilled to welcome so many visionary leaders and strong voices to our new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which will be vital in advancing ambitious progress for our planet,” Pelosi added.

Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats were quick to dismiss suggestions of jurisdictional tension.

“There is no greater champion of climate change issues than Nancy Pelosi,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate.

House Natural Services Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who has endorsed the Green New Deal, said he didn’t see any conflict between Thursday’s resolution and the new climate committee.

“I don't see it as duplicative; I don't see it as running counter to; and I don't see it as competitive,” Grijalva said. “I think [Pelosi’s] point is that there's due diligence to be done. Let's do it.”

Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, told reporters that she was asked to be on the special committee.

“Speaker Pelosi and I have spoken at length about climate,” she said. “She did in fact invite me to be on the committee, so I don’t think this is a snub. I don’t think it is anything like that.”

“We can have the conversation about the committee another day, but today is about looking forward and the actual legislative plan,” Ocasio-Cortez added.

When asked why she turned down the seat on the climate panel, Ocasio-Cortez said she had other committee commitments and will also be focusing on the Green New Deal resolution.

Democrats have had various disagreements over how to tackle global warming since Democrats won back the House in November. And they didn’t deny those differing viewpoints on Thursday.

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.), a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued that the various panels would only shine a brighter spotlight on the climate change crisis.

“The onslaught of all of these activities is going to create a lot more attention to the issue, which is ultimately a win,” he said. “Sometimes creative tension works for the advantage of getting something moving in Congress."

Rep. Sean CastenSean CastenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump struggles to replicate 2016 coalition The Hill's Morning Report - Trump struggles to replicate 2016 coalition Swing-state Democrats see trouble in proposed pay hike MORE (D-Ill.), who previously ran a clean energy company and was named to the climate committee, didn’t directly criticize the Green New Deal, but indicated a more moderate pace.

“There’s a tendency to say, ‘Let’s use this committee as a place to put together a whole host of things we could pass in the 117th Congress,’” he said, referring to the session of Congress that will start in 2021.

“You have to be practical about what you can do right now,” Casten added. “There is something radical about being practical in this place.”

One of the Green New Deal’s goals is to achieve 100 percent renewable energy in the U.S. by 2030.

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerFirst major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (D-Ore.), a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal measure and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said it was typical for lawmakers to step on each other’s toes.

“There is a lot of space for people,” he said. “The select committee will do it a little different than the people who want to organize behind the Green New Deal. Every congressional committee has a role that they can play, and I think the more the merrier.” 

“We’re Congress, we're always stepping on toes, including our own. That doesn’t bother me,” Blumenauer added. “If we aren’t stepping on toes we’re not moving.”