As Democrats are considering incorporating the Green New Deal (GND) into 2019’s congressional agenda (see our previous blog post for more on this proposal), a new poll shows strong bipartisan support for the idea of transforming the economy through fighting climate change. Despite the Green New Deal’s popularity, however, the House of Representative’s plan for action on climate change does not appear to be as strong as we had hoped – and may not include the Green New Deal at all. Read on for more details on these recent developments, and see the sample scripts at the bottom of this post to tell your Representatives that we need a Green New Deal now!
Tackling Climate Change in the Blue House
With Democrats taking control of the House in the new year, climate change is back on the legislative agenda. Representative Nancy Pelosi (incoming House Speaker-designate) and other Democratic leaders have pushed for reinstating the Select Committee on Climate Change, which Republicans killed eight years ago. However, climate activists, along with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worry that action from this committee will not be aggressive or swift enough, have proposed establishing a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, which would be tasked with developing a national plan to eliminate carbon emissions while guaranteeing jobs and environmental justice by 2020. What form the climate change committee will take will be determined on January 3, 2019, when the House convenes and votes on its rules for the upcoming session.
Who Likes the Green New Deal? Everyone!
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication recently conducted a poll of registered voters’ opinions of the GND. Based on the poll, the authors estimate that 81% of registered voters support the GND’s policy goals, including 64% of all Republicans and 57% of conservative Republicans. That’s more than half of conservative Republicans! Another important finding: 82% of respondents had not heard of the GND before the survey, meaning that most people are likely to support the Green New Deal if it’s described to them, but that word hasn’t gotten out about it.
Bipartisan support for action on climate change isn’t just found in the polls; a bipartisan carbon tax bill was introduced last week in the Senate. The bill was not expected to pass, but some see it as a starting point for bipartisan negotiation. Some Republicans have shown indications that they may be ready to compromise as the devastating effects of a changing climate become ever clearer.
Climate Action is Coming – But is it Enough?
The Green New Deal is a crucial opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. With a blue House, an energized progressive base, and bipartisan support, the House leadership has an opportunity to direct the policy agenda on this issue. Unfortunately, a few recent news items have put into question whether they will take this opportunity or let it pass.
First, Maryland Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer, the incoming majority leader, stated on December 19, 2018, that the committee that will tackle climate change – whatever that committee may be – will not have subpoena power, the legal authority to demand documents and testimony from relevant players. While the committee would likely have no problem collecting documents and testimony from climate scientists, a lack of subpoena power would prevent the committee from compelling testimony from the fossil fuel industry. Such testimony would allow the committee to establish key findings about issues such as fossil fuel funding for climate change denying think tanks and lobby groups and other bad faith efforts (some quite extraordinary – the Heartland Institute took out a billboard comparing the Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to people concerned about global warming!), which could motivate strong action and justify the scope of the legislation.
Second, on December 20, 2018, Florida Democrat Kathy Castor (who has a 93% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters) announced that she was chosen to lead a new committee on climate change in the next Congress. The details of the committee have not yet been made public, but Representative Castor stated that although a Green New Deal would be a consideration in the committee, “that’s not going to be our sole focus.” She also indicated that they were not planning to disqualify members from serving on the committee if they take money from fossil fuel companies. While the new committee shows that the leadership is planning to focus on climate change, it is also seen as an indication that they are not moving forward with a Green New Deal as proposed.
What you can do – call your Members of Congress NOW
Green New Deal supporters in Congress have said that they have not heard opposition from Democratic leadership to the GND’s proposed policies, but “they’re not willing to go out on a limb” because they aren’t sure of support from their caucus and they’re concerned about overstepping other committees’ jurisdiction. So far, only 43 of the 235 Democratic representatives have spoken out in favor of the Green New Deal. This means that Democratic leadership needs to hear from caucus members (our representatives) that there is solid support for a robust committee to work on the Green New Deal plan by 2020; and that in order to support the plan, the committee needs subpoena power to be able to compel testimony from relevant players.
You know what that means … time to call your Members of Congress and let them know we need immediate action on Climate Change through a national Green New Deal. Despite the government shutdown and the recess between Congressional sessions, Capitol offices are open and the staff is there to record your comments (though you may have to leave a message as some offices are short-staffed). Asking our MoCs to publicly support the Green New Deal is the best way to show leadership that the House needs to take it up as soon as possible.
Representative Barbara Lee has already shown public support for the plan. Representatives Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier have previously been strong advocates for action on climate change and the environment, but have not yet publicly supported the Green New Deal.
You can also contact your local and state representatives to sign on to the platform – read our previous article about the movement to get local and state leaders on-board. The more pressure to act on a Green New Deal, the better!
WHAT TO SAY:
If you are represented by Rep. Lee (CA-13):
My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for supporting the Green New Deal. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change while supporting our economy and workers. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.
If you are represented by Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11) or Swalwell (CA-15):
My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. I ask you to publicly support the Green New Deal, which is the only concrete proposal to ensure action on climate change. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.
To check on who your representative is, please enter your zip code at this link to verify.