Democrats seek solution in fight over 2020 climate debate

Democrats seek solution in fight over 2020 climate debate
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The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is considering two measures that end the conflict over holding a standalone climate debate for 2020 presidential hopefuls, two DNC officials confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

Members of the DNC's executive committee unanimously voted Saturday to allow two measures related to holding a climate debate to be considered further and potentially voted on as early as August.

The two measures, forwarded to the DNC's resolution committee, call for either an official climate change-focused debate or a more intimate forum on the subject.

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A vote on the topic of a climate debate is anticipated as early as August 22, when DNC officials are slated to meet in San Francisco. However, a DNC official cautioned that the shape of the resolutions are likely to change by then, with the possibility of additional climate focused resolutions or hybrid options brought to the table. 

"They are voting on the topic in August in some shape or form. They may be amended. There may be yet a third resolution written that tries to bring them into harmony," said Christine Pelosi, a member of the executive committee and the resolution committee.

"I don't see these two options on a collision course with one another. I think there is a solution we can call a win-win," she added.

The resolutions come as the DNC has faced mounting pressure to hold a separate debate on the topic of climate.

The DNC held its first presidential primary debate last week in Miami, where candidates discussed a variety of pressing issues. Despite nearly 10 minutes of questioning devoted to climate action issues on each of the two debate nights, environmental advocates and others criticized the debate for not allowing substantive responses on the issue, which multiple candidates have labeled the top threat facing the U.S.

Also last week, members of the youth climate action group Sunrise Movement rallied outside the DNC's Washington, D.C., headquarters demanding a climate debate.

Pelosi was one of three DNC members to introduce the resolution Saturday that called for a standalone climate debate.

"There are a number of us who want to have a standalone debate on the issue of climate. It's more than an issue. We need a climate crisis response blueprint," she said.

"In order to do that, we really want to take the time that it takes to put everyone on stage going through these issues, so when it's time to do the platform next summer, these issues will have been hashed out by and between the candidates," she added.

Trav Robertson, the South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, introduced the second resolution that opted instead for a forum where candidates could talk with one another about climate solutions instead of at one another in a debate format.

DNC leadership has said it doesn't want a debate on any singular issue. DNC Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE has also championed the idea of using forums.

A DNC official said the forum would be akin to the Planned Parenthood forum held held in South Carolina last month.

"They both talk about the importance of climate change. They echo the difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue," the official said of the resolutions.

The official said executive committee members discussed how forums "give them the opportunity to give longer answers and more policy on the issue."

But Pelosi said others in the DNC are against the idea of holding just a climate forum, believing candidates in the large Democratic field must vet their own climate action plans. She ultimately believes it will help the party craft its platform on the issue going into 2020.

"I do not support the idea of only having a climate forum because, to be quite honest, when we went back and forth over the debate of debates (at the executive committee meeting) and we starting talking about the planet being in peril, we spent more time talking climate at our debate about a climate debate than the presidential candidates did at the actual debate," Pelosi said.

Environmental activists and others cheered Monday's news of a potential vote on the two resolutions.

Sunrise Movement spokesman Stephen O'Hanlon said the resolutions appeared to show that "Tom Perez and the Democratic leadership are feeling the heat."

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeO'Rourke ends presidential bid Sunrise Movement organizer: Sanders, Warren boast strongest climate change plans Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate MORE (D), who is running his 2020 campaign primarily on a climate action platform, credited the resolutions to grass-roots progressives.

“Thanks to the progressive grassroots, climate activists, and Democrats across the country, we are one step closer to giving climate change the attention it requires in this race,” Inslee said in a statement.

Still, he said an August vote is not soon enough.

"There is no reason for the DNC to drag its feet on this. The debates in Miami utterly failed to address the seriousness of this existential threat. Chairman Perez should not wait until August; he should take action now to lift the gag rule or allow a climate debate. We need a full-fledged, televised climate debate to discuss plans in detail and to send a clear message that the Democratic Party is ready to lead on the climate crisis," Inslee said.