House Democrats Reveal Their Plan For Climate Change Committee

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Democratic leadership has formulated the guidelines for the widely anticipated climate change committee, but have bucked environmental hardliners by giving it no real authority or legislative powers.

As part of a rules package that will govern the House for the next two years, House Democrats unveiled the authority and operations of the new “Select Committee on the Climate Crisis” on Tuesday. The new committee will be made up of 15 members — nine Democrats and six Republicans. Kathy Castor, a six-term Democratic representative from Florida, has been tapped to serve as the committee’s chairwoman.

The climate change committee will be tasked to “investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution,” according to the rules package.

However, the new panel won’t be able to do much else.

The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will not have subpoena power, nor will it be permitted to vote on bills and send them directly to the House floor for a vote. Members will also not be barred if they accept donations from the fossil fuel industry. The committee is not even being specifically tasked with writing legislation pertaining to the Green New Deal — a vague set of demands by environmentalists that aim to transition the country to 100 percent renewable electricity. (RELATED: Elizabeth Warren Hasn’t Fully Embraced ‘Green New Deal’)

The committee’s lack of power is a major setback for environmental activists who hoped it would serve as a focal point for their Green New Deal agenda. Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who skyrocketed to fame after unseating a powerful New York congressman in the 2018 primaries — has been the Green New Deal’s biggest purveyor.

Ocasio-Cortez. Shutterstock

New York state senatorial candidate Julia Salazar was joined by Democratic primary winner Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in Bushwick to honor campaign workers who canvassed on her behalf. Shutterstock

Ocasio-Cortez blasted Democratic leadership Monday for not giving the committee subpoena authority or meeting any of her other “reasonable” demands.

The Sunrise Movement — an environmentalist organization and major supporter of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal — was even more critical.

“The mandate for Speaker Pelosi’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is out and it’s everything we feared,” Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash stated Wednesday. “1) It allows members to accept fossil fuel money; 2) It has no mandate to create a plan on the 12-year timeline mandated by the world’s top scientists; 3) It has no language on economic and racial justice, or a just transition.”

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