At a time when people throughout the U.S. and around the world are rallying behind bold solutions to the climate crisis and urgently warning that there is no time to waste, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided late Tuesday to betray his constituents and the planet, groups warned, by promoting "fossil fuel servant" Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to the top Democratic spot on the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress."
—Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth
"Appointing Senator Manchin as ranking member of the Energy Committee is completely at odds with any plan for real climate action," May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement. "Manchin has taken every opportunity to put Big Oil before the health and safety of communities and our climate."
Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, argued that the appointment of the pro-coal West Virginia senator to a top Energy Committee slot is a "stark failure of Chuck Schumer's leadership" in the midst of dire scientific warnings that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2040 to avert planetary catastrophe.
"Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress," Pica declared, alluding to the demonstrators who have flooded the halls of Congress and faced mass arrests in recent weeks to pressure lawmakers to support ambitious climate solutions.
Yes, we have to change everything to deal with climate change, but no that doesn't include seniority rules in the Senate.
Truly depressing, at a key moment in earth history, to see Joe Manchin take over as ranking member on the Energy Committee https://t.co/8Pz1XtsMci
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) December 11, 2018
The West Virginia senator's promotion—which was ratified Tuesday evening by members of the Senate Democratic caucus—came amid a wave of opposition from environmental groups, who adopted an "anyone but Manchin" stance in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's announcement.
"Not even this foolish decision can stop the groundswell of momentum that’s building for a Green New Deal."
—May Boeve, 350.org
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—who is pushing for the formation of a Green New Deal Select Committee in the House—joined progressive advocacy groups in warning against the appointment of Manchin, who has raked in over $156,000 in campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry in 2018, and is reportedly still profiting from a coal brokerage company he helped run before entering politics.
"I have concerns over the senator's chairmanship just because I do not believe that we should be financed by the industries that we are supposed to be legislating and regulating and touching with our legislation," Ocasio-Cortez said during a press conference on the Green New Deal last month.
While corporate media outlets worked hard to blame Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—currently the ranking member on the powerful Senate Budget Committee—for not abandoning his post to block Manchin, commentators were quick to note that Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) all have seniority over Manchin and could have taken the seat, but chose not to.
Ultimately, progressives placed the blame squarely on Schumer for refusing to heed grassroots demands to appoint a climate leader over a fossil fuel puppet.
"This is the wrong choice at the wrong time for the Democrats," said David Turnbull, strategic communications director with Oil Change USA. "Senator Schumer has failed in finding a ranking member for this committee that truly understands that the climate crisis requires us to take on the fossil fuel industry, not cater to its demands."
Chuck Schumer has zero credibility on environmental issues after this, regardless of how many op-eds he pens about creating green jobs. https://t.co/7MzPGd7DS3
— Alex Kotch (@alexkotch) December 11, 2018
While dismayed by Manchin's promotion, Boeve of 350.org expressed confidence that "not even this foolish decision can stop the groundswell of momentum that's building for a Green New Deal."
"With the leadership of communities and support from truly progressive members of Congress," she concluded, "we'll fight tooth and nail for climate policy that transitions us off fossil fuels to a 100 percent renewable energy economy."