ACTION ALERT: Address Climate Change, Inequality, and War: Young, Insurgent Congressmembers Demand a Green New Deal
November 15, 2018 Gideon Resnick / The Daily Beast & Ryan Grim and Briahna Gray / The Intercept & The Select Committee on a Green New Deal
During her freshman orientation, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected NY congresswoman from New York, showed her determination to address climate change and social inequality by joining an environmental group that had occupied California Democrat Nancy Pelosi's office to push for action by demanding that the party fully support the passage of a Green New Deal for America.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Joins Protest in
Nancy Pelosi's Office During Her Freshman Orientation Gideon Resnick / The Daily Beast
(November 13, 2018) -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected leftist congresswoman from New York, joined a protest on Tuesday morning inside the offices of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to call for immediate action on climate change.
Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats, the insurgent outfit that promoted challengers from the left throughout the 2018 Democratic primary cycle, accompanied a group of around 150 young people with the Sunrise Movement to implore Pelosi and House leadership to enact an aggressive plan to combat drastic ramifications of climate change.
The group's demands include a push for Pelosi and House leadership to back a "Green New Deal," a broad plan supported by Ocasio-Cortez and a number of other newly elected Democrats. [See below for details on the Green New Deal" -- EAW]
"This means creating a committee tasked specifically to write policy on creating jobs and moving our country off fossil fuels over the designated 12 years that the IPCC has given us," the group's petition reads. "Let's protect the lives of all working people -- black, brown, and white -- from the ravages of disaster and pollution."
Additionally they want to mandate that no member of Democratic leadership can take money from fossil-fuel executives and lobbyists.
"Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership must get serious about the climate and our economy," said Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats. "Anything less is tantamount to denying the reality of climate change. The hopeful part is that we're ushering in a new generation of leaders into the Democratic Party who understand the urgency and will help build a movement to create the political will for bold action."
In a video from the sit-in, Ocasio-Cortez is seen addressing the demonstrators, telling them: "I just want to let you all know how proud I am of each and every single one of you for putting yourselves and your bodies and everything on the line to make sure that we save our planet, our generation and our future. It's so incredibly important."
At issue is the fact that Pelosi -- who is expected to be re-elected House Speaker despite opposition from some of the party's new members -- recently said she intends to revive a select climate change-focused committee akin to the one that existed from 2007 to 2011.
The proposal is viewed as insufficient and "toothless" by the insurgent left groups that gathered in Pelosi's office on Tuesday morning.
Pelosi, meanwhile, claimed to be inspired by the presence of activists.
"We are inspired by the energy and activism of the many young activists and advocates leading the way on the climate crisis, which threatens the health, economic security and futures of all our communities," she said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast.
"I have recommended to my House Democratic colleagues that we reinstate a select committee to address the climate crisis. House Democrats ran on and won on our bold campaign for a $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient to the climate crisis, while creating 16 million new good-paying jobs across the country.
"We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy."
Justice Democrats responded to her directly on Twitter, writing: "Not good enough. Pelosi is reinstating a 2007 committee tasked with investigating the harms of climate change. We don't need more investigation. We need specific plans matching the urgency and scale mandated by the UN's IPCC report on catastrophic climate change."
(November 14, 2018) -- Protesters with the environmental group Sunrise marched on Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's office on Tuesday. The group, made up of young people pushing for urgent action on climate change, planned to send a clear message to party leadership just one week after Democrats regained control of the House.
But this was no ordinary protest for the Sunrise activists, who typically stand on the opposite side of politicians. This time, they were joined by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is just weeks away from being sworn into office.
Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib of Michigan joined the protesters in a rally at the Spirit of Justice Park near the Capitol on Tuesday morning, but she did not continue on to Pelosi's office. "This is the most American thing you can do," Tlaib said of the protest. Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib also attended an event with the Sunrise activists on Monday night.
Members of the progressive political group Justice Democrats also joined the protest, which was attended by more than 150 people. "Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership must get serious about the climate and our economy," said the group's communications director, Waleed Shahid, in a statement. "Anything less is tantamount to denying the reality of climate change. The hopeful part is that we're ushering in a new generation of leaders into the Democratic Party who understand the urgency and will help build a movement to create the political will for bold action."
A recent United Nations report found that catastrophic effects of climate change, some of which are already upon us, could become widespread as early as 2040. To stave off the crisis, the globe's economy would have to be put on the equivalent of a war footing, scientists involved with the study concluded.
The protesters, including Ocasio-Cortez, are calling on Pelosi to create and give teeth to a new select committee on climate change.
The proposed committee, called the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, would be similar to something Pelosi established as House speaker in 2007, but with more authority. Back then, Pelosi created the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and assigned her ally, then-Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who has a strong environmental record, to chair it.
The committee held dozens of hearings over the course of four years, until the tea party-led Congress, which took over in 2010, mothballed it. (The Republicans also got rid of the renewable plates and utensils Pelosi had introduced and replaced them with Styrofoam.)
The problem with that committee, Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise activists argue, was that it wasn't funded well enough and didn't have the true ability to write legislation. In 2009, Pelosi pushed through cap-and-trade legislation, meant to reduce emissions. But even that package moved largely through the Energy and Commerce Committee -- not the select committee Pelosi had created. Markey, who chaired a subcommittee under Energy and Commerce, played a lead role in pushing through the bill, which became known as the Waxman-Markey bill, but it never came to a floor vote in the Senate.
Some activists argued that it wasn't robust enough to meet the threat of climate change, while defenders argued it was the best the chamber could do -- and, as it turned out, it was far better than the Senate could do.
Since then, the global climate situation has only deteriorated, with once-in-a-century storms taking place with harrowing frequency, and drought conditions sparking war and mass migration. Dozens of people have died in still-raging fires in California that are the deadliest in the state's modern history, and hundreds more are missing. "Resting on our laurels won't bring back the 42 lives lost," said Sunrise activist Varshini Prakash, referring to the deaths in California.
The proposed committee would, among other things, establish a 10-year plan to transition the US economy to become carbon neutral, according to draft legislation that the activists presented to Pelosi's office. The activists are also pushing Democratic leaders to reject campaign contributions from fossil fuel industry groups. "We need every person who is going to claim the mantle of Democratic leadership to take the no fossil fuel money pledge," Prakash said at the sit-in outside Pelosi's office.
Ocasio-Cortez's decision to join the protesters and march on her own House leader sets a tone of urgency and combativeness that is rare on Capitol Hill. Walking into the Cannon House Office Building, she told The Intercept something new had to be tried. "The way things are done has not been getting results. We have to try new methods," she said.
Pelosi may need Ocasio-Cortez's support to win a second shot at the speakership. The California Democrat can only lose roughly 20 votes on the House floor, and already at least 10 Democrats, largely moderates and conservatives, have said they will not back her. Pelosi has expressed "100 percent" confidence that she'll be elected speaker.
Pelosi has long been proud of her climate record, and she's taken political risks in her attempts to tackle climate change. When she pushed for a vote on the cap-and-trade bill in 2009, for example, she did so despite warnings that it could cost her the House and was also unlikely to pass the Senate.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, responded to the protest by saying that Pelosi is already on board with the proposals of the New Green Deal and the strengthening of the committee. When she addressed the protesters, Ocasio-Cortez said that the objective of the protest was to support Pelosi's quest to tackle climate change. In an interview with The Intercept, she said that what Hammil said "is absolutely true, and so what we're really doing is we're trying to galvanize that into a priority."
"There are so many different progressive issues that are important and climate change and addressing renewable energy always gets to the bottom of the barrel," Ocasio-Cortez continued. "That can gets kicked from session to session and so what this just needs to do is create a momentum and an energy to make sure that that it becomes a priority for leadership."
Ocasio-Cortez's break with decorum could, paradoxically, open up space for her to ultimately support Pelosi on the House floor. After her primary victory, Ocasio-Cortez called for "new leadership" in the House and floated the possibility of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., running for the job. If Ocasio-Cortez can extract concessions by publicly demonstrating against Pelosi, the incoming representative's supporters may be more forgiving of a final vote in Pelosi's favor.
Lee, a close ally of Pelosi, is running for Democratic caucus chair, the leadership post being vacated by Rep. Joe Crowley, the New York Democrat whom Ocasio-Cortez defeated in a primary election.
Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez have had an uneasy public relationship. Pelosi was quick to dismiss the implications of Ocasio-Cortez's June upset over Crowley, who'd been in office for 14 years. "They made a choice in one district," she said of the voters who propelled Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist, to victory. "So, let's not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that. … We have an array of genders, generations, geography and … opinion, in our caucus, and we're very proud of that."
Ocasio-Cortez later disputed the conclusion. "It's not just one district," she said. Proposal for a Green New Deal:
Draft Text for Proposed Addendum to House Rules
For the 116th Congress of the United States Select Committee on a Green New Deal
1. ESTABLISHMENT; COMPOSITION
(A) ESTABLISHMENT. -- There is hereby established a Select Committee For A Green New Deal (hereinafter in this section referred to as the "select committee")
(B) COMPOSITION. -- The select committee shall be composed of 15 members appointed by the Speaker, of whom 6 shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Minority Leader. The Speaker shall designate one member of the select committee as its chair. A vacancy in the membership of the select committee shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.
2. JURISDICTION; FUNCTIONS
(A) LEGISLATIVE JURISDICTION. --
(i) the select committee shall have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the "Plan for a Green New Deal" or the "Plan") for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.
In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan shall:
(a) be prepared in consultation with experts and leaders from business, labor, state and local governments, academia and broadly representative civil society groups and communities;
(b) be driven by the federal government, in collaboration, co-creation and partnership with business, labor, state and local governments, research institutions, and civil society groups and communities;
(c) be executed in no longer than 10 years from the start of execution of such Plan;
(d) provide opportunities for high income work, entrepreneurship and cooperative and public ownership and
(e) additionally, be responsive to, and in accordance with, the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality set forth in paragraph (6).
(ii) No later than the submission of the Plan in accordance with the provisions set forth in paragraph (5)(B)(i), the select committee shall prepare draft legislation for the enactment of the Plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the "draft legislation"), in accordance with the provisions set forth in paragraph 5(B)(ii).
(B) INVESTIGATIVE JURISDICTION. -- In furtherance of the mandate set forth in paragraph (2)(A) above, the select committee shall have the authority to investigate, study, make findings, convene experts and leaders from industry, academia, local communities, labor, finance, technology and any other industry or group that the select committee deems to be a relevant resource.
The select committee may, at its discretion and as its members may deem appropriate, hold public hearings in connection with any aspect of its investigative functions.
(A) Except as specified in paragraph (2), the select committee shall have the authorities and responsibilities of, and shall be subject to the same limitations and restrictions as, a standing committee of the House, and shall be deemed a committee of the House for all purposes of law or rule.
(B)(i) Rules [TBD] (Organization of Committees) and [TBD] (Procedures of Committees and Unfinished Business) shall apply to the select committee where not inconsistent with this resolution.
(ii) Service on the select committee shall not count against the limitations on committee or subcommittee service in Rule [TBD] (Organization of Committees).
(A) the select committee may use the services of staff of the House and may, at its discretion and as its members may deem appropriate, use the services of external consultants or experts in furtherance of its mandate;
(B) the select committee shall be eligible for interim funding pursuant to clause [TBD] of Rule [TBD] (Interim Funding - Organization of Committees); and
(C) without limiting the foregoing, the select committee may, at any time and from time to time during the course of its mandate, apply to the House for an additional, dedicated budget to carry out its mandate.
5. INTERIM REPORTING; SUBMISSION OF THE PLAN FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL; SUBMISSION OF DRAFT LEGISLATION
(A) The select committee may report to the House or any House Committee it deems appropriate from time to time the results of its investigations and studies, together with such detailed findings and interim recommendations or proposed Plan or draft legislation (or portion thereof) as it may deem advisable.
(B) (i) The select committee shall complete the Plan for a Green New Deal by a date no later than January 1, 2020.
(ii) The select committee shall complete the finalized draft legislation by a date no later than March 1, 2020.
(iii) The select committee shall ensure and procure that the Plan and the draft legislation prepared in accordance with this section shall, upon completion, be made available to the public in widely accessible formats (including, without limitation, via at least one dedicated website and a print publication) by a date no later than 30 calendar days following the respective dates for completion set forth in paragraph (5)(B)(i) and (ii).
6. SCOPE OF THE PLAN FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL
(A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed in order to achieve the following goals, in each case in no longer than 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:
(i) 100% of national power generation from renewable sources;
(2) Building a national, energy-efficient, "smart" grid;
(3) Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;
(4) Decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries;
(5) Decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure;
(6) Funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases;
(7) Making "green" technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely carbon neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.
(B) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.
In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan (and the draft legislation) shall:
(i) provide all members of our society, across all regions and all communities, the opportunity, training and education to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure every person who wants one, a living wage job;
(ii) take into account and be responsive to the historical and present-day experiences of low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities most affected by climate change, pollution and other environmental harm;
(iii) mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth (including, without limitation, ensuring that federal and other investment will be equitably distributed to historically impoverished, low income, deindustrialized or other marginalized communities);
(iv) include additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism; and
(v) deeply involve national and local labor unions to take a leadership role in the process of job training and worker deployment.
(C) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that innovative public and other financing structures are a crucial component in achieving and furthering the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality and cooperative and public ownership set forth in paragraphs (2)(A)(i) and (6)(B).
The Plan (and the draft legislation) shall, accordingly, ensure that the majority of financing of the Plan shall be accomplished by the federal government, using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.
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