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 		 [Instead, Democrats are sticking to their original plan, and
channeled Exxon Mobil in an announcement refusing to bar members who
take fossil fuel money. ] [https://portside.org/] 

 DEMOCRATS JUST BLOCKED ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ’S PUSH FOR A GREEN
NEW DEAL COMMITTEE   [https://portside.org/node/18942] 

 

 Alexander C. Kaufman 
 December 20, 2018
Huffington Post
[https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kathy-castor-climate_us_5c1c0843e4b08aaf7a869cfd]


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 _ Instead, Democrats are sticking to their original plan, and
channeled Exxon Mobil in an announcement refusing to bar members who
take fossil fuel money. _ 

 , 

 

Democratic leaders on Thursday tapped Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) to
head a revived U.S. House panel on climate change
[https://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/climate-change], all but ending
a dramatic monthlong effort to establish a select committee on a Green
New Deal.

Castor’s appointment came as a surprise to proponents of a Green New
Deal. The move also kicked off a controversy as the six-term
congresswoman dismissed calls to bar members who accept money from
fossil fuel companies from serving on the committee, arguing it would
violate free speech rights. 

Despite weeks of protests demanding House Democrats focus efforts next
year on drafting a Green New Deal, the sort of sweeping economic
policy that scientists say matches the scale of the climate crisis,
Castor told E&E News [https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060110295] the
plan was “not going to be our sole focus.”

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
[https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13012018/exxon-climate-change-investor-fraud-investigations-lawsuit-free-speech-new-york]
to defend its funding of right-wing think tanks that deliberately
produced misinformation about climate science to stymie government
action on global warming. 

Soon after the remarks were published, Castor walked back the
statement in an interview with HuffPost, calling it an “inartful
answer.”

But she said she did not know whether, as chairperson, she could bar
members on the committee from serving if they accepted fossil fuel
donations. 

“Maybe that’s a discussion we need to have in the caucus,”
Castor said. 

It’s a stunning upset, essentially returning Democrats to the
original plan leaders laid out before the protests began in November.
The announcement comes as a loss for Rep.-elect Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Her meteoric rise and devoted base made it
seem as if she were poised to win the burgeoning cadre of leftist
Democrats a beachhead in a select committee that, even with limited
capacity, would have demonstrated tangible power in Washington. 

But, if it’s defeat, it’s bittersweet. The campaign, seemingly
quixotic at first, shifted the stagnant climate policy debate not just
to the left but, for the first time, in the direction of policies that
could make a dent in surging global emissions and curb soaring income
inequality. Coupled with back-to-back United Nations and federal
reports that showed climate change already rapidly worsening, the
effort established a new litmus test for lawmakers, breaking the
binary of whether or not a politicians “believes” in the science
of human-caused warming. 

The movement gained stunning support in just a few weeks. A poll
released Monday found 81 percent
[https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/green-new-deal-poll_us_5c169f2ae4b05d7e5d8332a5]
of registered voters supported the policies outlined under the Green
New Deal resolution ― including 64 percent of Republicans and 57
percent of self-described conservative Republicans. Last Friday, more
than 300 state and local officials voiced support
[https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/green-new-deal-local-officials_us_5c13df27e4b049efa7520236]
for a Green New Deal in an open letter. 

“We don’t have time to sit on our hands as our planet burns,”
Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday in a tweet
[https://twitter.com/Ocasio2018/status/1075897622223880193]. “For
young people, climate change is bigger than election or re-election.
It’s life or death.”

It’s unclear whether Ocasio-Cortez will even get a seat on the
select committee. 

Asked if she accepted money from fossil fuel companies, Castor said,
“I cannot think of a contribution from an oil company or fossil fuel
company, but I cannot say without going back and with a fine-toothed
comb that there wasn’t something in the past.”

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Castor
accepted more than $73,000
[https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/industries?cid=N00027514&cycle=CAREER&type=I]
from the energy and natural resources sector over her 12-year tenure
in Congress, including $60,000 from corporate political action
committees. The League of Conservation Voters gave Castor an 86
percent [http://scorecard.lcv.org/moc/kathy-castor] score last year on
its ranking, which is based on her voting record. She had a 93 percent
lifetime score. 

She said she would consider taking the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, a
vow overseen by a handful of progressive groups including proponents
of a Green New Deal. Asked what the decision hinged on, Castor said,
“I don’t know.”

“We’re at year-end with a possible shutdown and I think the
important thing is looking at folks for the committee who are ready to
serve,” she said. 

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
[https://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/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.

Ocasio-Cortez, a left-wing firebrand with a powerful online following,
joined the protests and proposed swapping Pelosi’s plan to restore
the climate select committee with a plan for a panel devoted to the
Green New Deal. 

For a few weeks, it seemed likely to happen. More than 40 incoming or
sitting House Democrats pledged to support the resolution, and nearly
half a dozen senators announced their support for the effort,
including at least three likely 2020 presidential contenders. 

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.Democratic leaders responded in kind, declining to
contact activists or Ocasio-Cortez before announcing plans to ignore
the resolution and restore the previous climate select committee
instead. 

Representatives from Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats confirmed
they were not told of the decision until they read about it on E&E
News. Castor said she “chatted with Rep.-elect Ocasio-Cortez, but
not specifically on this.” 

In a statement, Sunrise Movement said a select committee “that makes
a plan for implementing a Green New Deal is an opportunity for
Democrats in the House.” 

“Without a mandate to create a plan and a requirement that its
members don’t take fossil fuel money, we are deeply concerned that
this committee will be just another of the many committees we’ve
seen failing our generation our entire lives,” Varshini Prakash,
the Sunrise Movement’s co-founder, said in a statement.

Later Thursday evening, Sunrise political director Evan Weber said the
group would continue the fight. 

“Nancy Pelosi has the power to determine whether or not the Select
Committee for a Green New Deal lives or dies,” Weber said.
“Sunrise Movement’s position is and will continue to be that
it’s not over until she makes it clear that it’s over.” 

But, earlier this week, Democratic leaders announced that a Green New
Deal select committee would lack subpoena power, seemingly sounding
the death knell for the resolution. 

Castor said the select committee she agreed to chair would likely have
subpoena power, but not legislative power. She said she did not know
yet which individuals or companies she would use that power to
investigate.  

“I honestly thought the Democratic Party leaders would see this
opportunity,” said Waleed Shahid, the communications director for
Justice Democrats, a left-wing group championing the Green New Deal
proposal. “It’s infuriating to see a fellow Democrat basically
parrot the talking points of the Koch Brothers when it comes to the
very common-sense idea that any politician who accepts donations from
the fossil-fuel corporations should not be allowed to legislate on
climate change.” 

But Castor’s appointment won praise from establishment environmental
groups. 

“Rep. Kathy Castor is an outstanding choice to help lead the
House’s renewed focus on climate change,” John Bowman, senior
director for federal affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council,
said in a statement. “As a longtime environmental champion, few are
better suited to help shine a bright light on the threats Americans
face from the climate crisis and advance the solutions we urgently
need.”

_Alexander Kaufman is a climate and environment reporter at HuffPost,
based in New York. Email him at [log in to unmask] Direct
message him on Twitter @AlexCKaufman for his phone number on the
encrypted messaging app Signal._

 

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