Progressives and climate activists expressed frustration with Democratic Party leadership after Politico reported Tuesday that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer would be holding a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Ed Markey in the 2020 Massachusetts Democratic primary.
Markey, who cosponsored the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), has the support of youth climate group the Sunrise Movement, which cited Hoyer's affiliation with Big Oil in a scathing statement on the fundraiser to Common Dreams.
"Steny Hoyer has received millions from oil and gas PACs and bundlers over his career, he's the number two highest recipient of fossil fueled electric utilities this cycle, and he recently tried to jam a Big Oil handout into the coronavirus relief packaged passed by Democrats in the House," said Sunrise's political director Evan Weber. "Given all that, it's no wonder that he'd prefer that the co-author of the Green New Deal doesn't win his re-election campaign."
House Democratic Leadership only opposes primary challenges when they are from the left, I see. pic.twitter.com/8brLimgjG0
— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) May 19, 2020
As Common Dreams reported, Hoyer's ultimately unsuccessful advocacy for a fossil fuel bailout in the HEROES Act passed by Congress on May 15 earned the Maryland Democrat harsh criticism from his primary challenger, progressive Mckayla Wilkes.
"This is just one example of Congressman Hoyer's failure to approach the climate crisis with the urgency it requires," Wilkes said.
Journalist Kate Aronoff said on Twitter that while the move by Hoyer could be about political spats and party discipline, Hoyer's reliance on fossil fuel and utility industry donors can't be ignored as he raises money for the candidate trying to oust one of the Senate's biggest champions of the Green New Deal.
"I think generally this kind of stuff comes down to dumb turf wars and trying to discipline anyone who steps out of line," said Aronoff, "but it's also worth noting that electric utilities are some of Steny Hoyer's biggest donors."
On Tuesday, Wilkes told Common Dreams that Hoyer hosting a fundraiser for Kennedy flies in the face of over a year's worth of threats and blacklists by Democratic leadership against progressive challengers to incumbents in both the House and the Senate.
"House Democratic Leadership has worked for over a year to disadvantage progressive primary challengers through the DCCC Blacklist," said Wilkes. "Now, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is fundraising for a primary challenge against sitting U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal."
"The hypocrisy makes it crystal-clear," she continued. "Hoyer does not actually have a problem with primary challengers, he has a problem with progressives."
Sunrise Movement's Weber echoed those remarks, referring to House Democratic leadership's backing of "Trump's favorite Democrat" Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) against primary challenger attorney Jessica Cisneros in the Lone Star State's primary on March 3.
"It's pretty hypocritical for House leadership to make such a fuss about challenging incumbents in their chamber, and to go as far as to handicapping someone like Jessica Cisneros challenging pro-oil Democrat Henry Cuellar, but then go out of their way to back someone trying to oust the Democrats' most senior leader on climate in the Senate," said Weber. "What gives?"
Hoyer is being joined at the event with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a Congressional Progressive Caucus vice chair, and Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.). The presence of Raskin irked healthcare advocate Timothy Faust, who tweeted it was a sign that "members of the CPC are throwing Ed Markey under the bus."
"This isn't like kneecapping Sanders—Markey is hardly a socialist; a senator who typifies the 'acceptable' kind of progressive to the Dem Party," said Faust. "They just are willing to take any opportunity to squish anyone left of center."