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'They Failed Us Once Again': House Democrats Denounced for Dashing Hopes of Green New Deal

"This committee is weaker than the first Climate Select Committee from a decade ago, and it does not get us meaningfully closer to solving the climate crisis or fixing our broken economy."

Supporters of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) proposed Select Committee on a Green New Deal in the Longworth House Office Building on Dec. 10. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

No subpoena power. No rule barring members from accepting fossil fuel money. No directive to craft the kind of visionary plan that science says is necessary to avert climate catastrophe.

"The only reason to do this is to protect the corporate CEOs who have unlawfully suppressed information about the dangers of climate change to protect their own profits."
—Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement

With the mandate (pdf) for presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) Select Committee on the Climate Crisis finally available to the public, youth climate leaders highlighted these glaring omissions on Wednesday when they denounced the Democratic leadership's new panel as completely "toothless" and lacking the ambition needed to rapidly transition America's energy system away from fossil fuels.

"It's everything we feared," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led advocacy group that helped organize sit-ins at the congressional offices of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to demand a Green New Deal Select Committee.

"Democratic leaders had an opportunity to embrace young people's energy and back the Green New Deal, but they failed us once again," Prakash added. "This committee is toothless and weaker than the first Climate Select Committee from a decade ago, and it does not get us meaningfully closer to solving the climate crisis or fixing our broken economy."

Driven by the deep concern that Democrats would squander their majority power in the House by merely conducting more climate hearings and little else, progressive groups have urgently mobilized in recent weeks to pressure the party's leadership to pursue a more focused and ambitious objective: A committee specifically focused on developing Green New Deal legislation that would enact systemic energy and economic reforms in line with the latest climate science.

But, as the Sunrise Movement noted on Wednesday, Pelosi's new committee has "no mandate to create a plan" that would dramatically reduce carbon emissions with the necessary speed, nor does it have subpoena power that would compel fossil fuel executives to testify and hand over crucial documents.

"The only reason to do this is to protect the corporate CEOs who have unlawfully suppressed information about the dangers of climate change to protect their own profits," Prakash said.

The new climate committee will be officially established on Thursday if House Democrats vote to approve their newly unveiled rules package, which includes a fiscally conservative pay-go measure that Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), and progressive advocacy groups are working to defeat.

If implemented, progressives argue, pay-go would hamstring bold and popular policies like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.

While calling Pelosi's new climate committee "deeply disappointing," the Sunrise Movement vowed to keep up the fight for a Green New Deal by continuing to organize at the grassroots level and build support for the plan nationwide.

"In losing this fight on the Select Committee, we have won the biggest breakthrough on climate change in my lifetime," Prakash said. "We've shown that when we relentlessly demand what's needed, not just what pundits say is politically possible, we can change the terms of debate altogether."

"We're working with movement partners and elected official allies to make plans for what's next, but one thing is clear," she concluded. "Even though we put the Green New Deal on the map by taking action in D.C., we will win by organizing support for it across the country—from Appalachia and the Midwest to places like Florida and California that have been ravaged by climate disaster."

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