Sunrise Movement and AOC Push Pelosi for a Green New Deal, Highlighting Job Creation

Jerri-Lynn here: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has floated the eminently sensible albeit extremely modest suggestion that  the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives create a a Select Committee on a Green New Deal.

That’s there’s any debate about this proposal at all – given the crisis we face – is further testament to how broken the US political system is, and how deeply corrupted are most of our politicians.

As California Congressman Ro Khanna notes (according to Common Dreams):

“Pelosi should not only create this committee, but also appoint ⁦⁩ as Chair,” Khanna tweeted. “That is the boldness voters want. We need to shake up Congress & give the millennial generation a chance to lead. They have the most at stake re climate change.”

And AOC has gone even further. Not content with forcing Pelosi to honor her pledge to create the select committee, AOC is part of a group pressing her to back a plan to move to 100% renewable energy in a decade (see this account in Politico,  Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ becomes flash point for Pelosi).

We’ll see. Given what I know about how the campaign finance system works – which I first started to learn beginning in the spring of 1980 as a student of Tom Ferguson– and the amount of fossil fuel money sloshing around both sides of the aisle, I understand why even the modest select committee proposal isn’t a slam-dunk- despite Pelosi’s pledge (for more details, see this Politico piece, Veteran Democrats wary of climate push by Ocasio-Cortez and her allies, also see the informative first chart in this recent Ferguson et al INET post, Big Money—Not Political Tribalism—Drives US Elections, and note that only Mitch McConnell is more dependent on big money interests than is Pelosi).

I’m also pleased to see AOC join in the Sunrise Movement sit-in in Pelosi’s office. IMHO, we need less decorum in Congress – and a rejection of the absurd insistence on bipartisanship as the primus inter pares cardinal virtue (a fallacy I debunked in my 2016 post, Don’t Be An Obamamometer: Support Naked Capitalism and Critical Thinking).

Democrats are faced with a real choice here – lead on a climate change agenda, and commit to welcoming the hatred of the fossil fuel industry – or continue to serve as tame lapdogs and watch the planet burn (see this account in the New Statesman discussing this choice, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal shows the radical choice facing the Democrats). And note that as another benefit, the New Statesman calls the Green New Deal “the most transformative economic proposal since the Roosevelt era”. Think of how that would play electorally, if the party could find a path to enacting such a program, despite the formidable institutional obstacles that currently block the way.

I am certainly well aware that Trump remains President, and that the Republicans control the Senate. But Democrats will continue to languish at the polls if they continue to march to the beat set by their donors, and pursue policies that are DINO (aka,Democratic in Name Only).

By Nathanael Johnson (@savortooth on Twitter), Grist’s senior writer and the author of Unseen City and All Natural  Originally published at Grist.

The young climate activists clustered into California Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office this week to demand a “Green New Deal” hadn’t wasted any time. As soon as it became clear that Democrats will have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, they descended on Washington to exert whatever clout they had.

The protest in Pelosi’s office was organized by the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people who have been pushing for climate action for a little over a year. They may have some sway with Pelosi, who issued a supportive statement while they were occupying her office on Tuesday. But with a Republican-held Senate and Donald Trump in the White House, the chances of enacting meaningful climate legislation next year are close to zero. So what’s their strategy here?

Varshini Prakash, Sunrise’s co-founder and communications director (and one of our Grist 50), said they have two objectives. First, they want all Democrats in leadership positions to stop accepting contributions from fossil fuel interests. And they want Pelosi to back something along the lines of a “Green New Deal,” a massive government mobilization to build a new, non-polluting, economy while also creating jobs.

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Prakash said she was under no illusions about Pelosi’s ability to drive a climate bill through a Republican-controlled Senate, but she believes both of the group’s objectives could still be satisfied. Politicians don’t need anyone’s permission to stop taking oil money, and Democrats could set up a select committee in the House to begin laying the groundwork for a massive climate jobs program. As it happens, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected Representative from New York, joined the protesters outside Pelosi’s office, and has already proposed such a committee.

House Democrats need to start hammering out policy now, Prakash said, so that they will have strong legislation to pass when climate-conscious politicians take the Senate. In the meantime, Sunrise will be building a campaign to elect politicians who will support their cause at both the state and federal level. “This is definitely not a one-off event,” she said.

In a statement, Pelosi said she welcomed “the presence of these activists” and noted that she has already recommended reviving a select committee on climate change, which Republicans disbanded when they took the House in 2011.

That’s not enough for Prakash. “The old committee was toothless,” she said “It had no funding and no ability to put forward legislation — its purpose was to make connections and raise awareness. The time for messaging to the public about climate change is over, we need action.”

Pelosi’s office had no comment when we requested a response, but Representative Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, told reporters that even Pelosi’s proposal for a select committee goes too far. It’s unnecessary, Pallone said, because the environmental policy committee he is expected to lead can handle the job.

In her statement, Pelosi said that many Democrats had campaigned on something that looks very much like a Green New Deal. “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.”

Environmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard, who might have been the first person to use the term “Green New Deal” back in 1998, said Pelosi needs to embrace the rhetoric of young activists if she wants this idea to take fire.

“The next step is to get Pelosi to use those words, Green New Deal,” Hertsgaard said. “She’s already on board, but her statement about 16 million jobs and $1 billion investment in infrastructure, that’s policy wonk talk out of Washington.The average person can understand what a Green New Deal is.”

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