It’s hard to even begin to catalog the political horrors of 2018, much less the less egregious disappointments, and while this story will fly under the radar in the face of the more dramatic cruelties facing us on a seemingly daily basis, it is nevertheless one of the more low-key depressing developments of the year: In one fell swoop, centrist House Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi have scuttled a Green New Deal committee.
Alexander C. Kaufman at Huffpo has the story, and it’s a doozy. In short, House Democrats chose Florida Rep. Kathy Castor to lead their select committee on climate change, and thus essentially ended a push by the Justice Democrats and other progressive groups to replace that comittee with a potentially transformative body committed to a Green New Deal.
The restoration of the select committee on climate change puts an end to a month-long effort to replace it with a panel focused specifically on crafting a Green New Deal, an umbrella term for a suite of policies that would include shifting the United States to 100 percent renewable energy over the next decade and guaranteeing high-wage, federally backed jobs to workers in outmoded industries.
The proposal stormed into mainstream political debate over the past month after protesters from the progressive groups Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats held sit-ins in Pelosi’s office. The demonstrations came in response to what they saw as plans for a tepid response to the climate crisis when the party takes control of the House next month.
That fear of a tepid response has become reality. As you might imagine, it stems three factors, and it’s the same three factors that routinely hamstring any progress in either the House or Senate: Seniority, corporate influence, and ego:
But the proposal ruffled feathers in Washington. Incoming chairmen of committees that traditionally oversee energy and environmental policy complained that a Green New Deal select committee would strip them of legislative power. And Beltway veterans privately expressed frustration that a cadre of insurgent freshmen, some of whom toppled long-time allies in primaries, were using their grassroots popularity to call shots.
Almost immediately, Castor signaled her unwillingness to bar members who accept money from fossil fuel companies from the committee, and she has already diminished the efforts of the 40-plus House members who pushed for a Green New Deal, saying it was “not going to be our sole focus.”
Amazingly, she also echoed talking points by one of America’s biggest polluters:
She then suggested that barring members who have accepted donations from the oil, gas and coal industries from serving on the committee could be unconstitutional.
“I don’t think you can do that under the First Amendment, really,” she said.
That reasoning echoed arguments Exxon Mobil Corp. made in court as recently as this year to defend its funding of right-wing think tanks that deliberately produced misinformation about climate science to stymie government action on global warming.
Even if this is a temporary setback for the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and progressives in the House, they can take solace in the fact that the debate has shifted and this latest road block has been met with fury on the left. Still, this isn’t an issue on which a kick-the-can-down-the-road strategy will be effective. Time is running out, and when the party that’s supposed to actually care about climate change is parroting Exxon-Mobil, that spells trouble. And there’s only one solution: Remember their names, primary them all.