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-CortezOn 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 Anxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid 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 PelosiPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 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 Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit MORE (D-Calif.) — and herself over how best to address the climate crisis.

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Speaking alongside Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John Markey3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court Schumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement 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 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.).

“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) KhannaThe Hill Interview: Jerry Brown on climate disasters, COVID-19 and Biden's 'Rooseveltian moment' Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery DeJoy defends Postal Service changes at combative House hearing 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 Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary 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 BlumenauerAhead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities Federal agents deployed to Portland did not have training in riot control: NYT 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.”