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-CortezBill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 Super PAC head spars with CNN's Cuomo over Ocasio-Cortez ad Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight 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 PelosiProgressives call for impeachment inquiry after reported Kavanaugh allegations The promise and peril of offshoring prescription drug pricing Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump MORE (D-Calif.) — and herself over how best to address the climate crisis.

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Speaking alongside Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ocasio-Cortez endorses Markey in Senate race amid speculation over Kennedy candidacy House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge 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 CastorHouse approves two bills to block Trump drilling Pelosi, Schumer invite US women's soccer team to Capitol Democrats grill Trump officials over fuel standard rollback 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) KhannaYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Khanna: I 'didn't appreciate' Castro's attack on Biden Overwhelming majority of voters want lawmakers to work with other party 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 CastenSwing-seat Democrats oppose impeachment, handing Pelosi leverage Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort 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 BlumenauerMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees 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.”