Inslee presses Trump on climate change in House testimony

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeBarr asked prosecutors to explore charging Seattle mayor over protest zone: report Bottom line Oregon senator says Trump's blame on 'forest management' for wildfires is 'just a big and devastating lie' MORE became the first Democratic presidential candidate to testify before Congress on Tuesday, appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to offer sharp criticism of the Trump administration on his signature issue of climate change.

As Democrats work to fast-track a bill that would recommit the U.S. to the Paris climate accord, Inslee said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE abandoned America’s international responsibility by walking away from the agreement.

Responding to committee members who argued the agreement did not do enough to push developing nations to curb their carbon use, Inslee said U.S. inaction discouraged other countries from taking action on climate change.

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“There are a lot of people … saying we shouldn’t do something until the last person on earth does something, and then they turn around and say we shouldn’t be in the Paris agreement. It’s not very inspiring to the rest of the world and encouraging them to do things when we tear up an international agreement we’re a part of,” Inslee said. “That’s not going to inspire representatives of China or India.”  

Inslee has made fighting climate change the cornerstone of his fledgling presidential campaign, saying he wants to be known as “the climate guy.” 

But he was quickly questioned by a fellow Washingtonian, Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing More than 100 lawmakers urge IRS to resolve stimulus payment issues MORE (R), who asked how Inslee arrived at the hearing and what he would be doing to offset his carbon footprint. 

Ranking member Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks Poll finds support for independent arbiters resolving 'surprise' medical bills MORE (R-Ore.) criticized Inslee’s invitation at the expense of advancing other policy proposals.

“It’s disappointing today that this hearing is really more about the politics of climate change than realistic work on solutions,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time in my 18 years on this committee where we cleared the decks for a presidential candidate to come take center stage.”

Walden pushed for the committee to take up the Green New Deal, while other Republicans on the committee opened by voicing that “climate change is real.” 

But the discussion diverged over whether the green economy can produce jobs.

Republican representatives from coal and fossil fuel-producing states questioned how a transition to green energy would impact local economies as well as global markets reliant on U.S. energy exports. Rep. Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinCongress must protect kidney disease patients during the COVID-19 pandemic Georgia strengthens democracy, moves closer to NATO with US support Five takeaways from PPP loan data MORE (R-Okla.) repeated Republican calls for an “all of the above” approach to energy that would include fossil fuels. 

Inslee touted the transition program used during the closing of Washington’s last coal-fired power plant as well as what he said will be a wealth of high-paying green energy technician jobs in the solar and wind sector. 

“There are a heck of a lot more jobs fighting climate change than there are in denying climate change,” Inslee told the committee, but the U.S. risks losing jobs to growing green energy industries overseas.

“The question is where the jobs are going to be created, not whether they are going to be created,” he said.