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Are Democrats Attempting to Kneecap the Green New Deal?

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (Third Way Think Tank / Flickr)

In what critics denounced as a blatant attempt to shield fossil fuel executives and cripple Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) proposed Green New Deal Select Committee before it even gets off the ground, incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Wednesday that—unlike other congressional committees—the new panel “will not have subpoena power” and will serve as a mere “recommendatory committee.”

Hoyer’s remarks immediately sparked fury from progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez herself, who noted that while the Select Committee isn’t “our ultimate end goal,” a “weak committee misses the point and endangers people.”

In a statement, Sunrise Movement spokesperson Varshini Prakash condemned the expected decision to deny the Green New Deal Select Committee subpoena power as “an insult to the thousands of young people across the country who have been calling on the Democratic Party leadership to have the courage to stand up to fossil fuel billionaires and make sure our generation has a livable future.”

While Hoyer—whose office has recently been targeted by youth-led climate protests and sit-ins—claimed to have no idea why the Green New Deal Select Committee would need subpoena power, critics were quick to point out that such authority would be necessary for the body to compel fossil fuel executives to testify and turn over crucial documents.

“The sole purpose of this is protecting fossil fuel executives,” HuffPost reporter Zach Carter said in response to Hoyer’s remarks.

Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for Justice Democrats, argued that the Democratic leadership’s move to create a toothless Green New Deal committee represents yet another glaring example of how out of touch the party establishment is with the surging support for bold climate action among the vast majority of the American public.

“The Democratic Party establishment never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” Shahid declared in a statement. “They have failed to propose solutions that match the scale of the climate crisis and they have failed to fully hold fossil fuel billionaires accountable.”

“Instead of seizing the opportunity right in front of them,” he concluded, “they have decided to violate the norms of most select committees by stripping away its power to bring the barons of the industry to account.”

In order to adequately meet the task of developing a comprehensive plan to rapidly transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy while creating millions of jobs, Ocasio-Cortez has proposed that the Green New Deal Select Committee must have the power to draft “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization” legislation.

Speaking to The Hill on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson Corbin Trent raised alarm that the Democratic leadership is attempting to strip the committee of these basic powers before it is even officially formed.

“We think that the committee needs to have the authority and the capacity to develop a plan for a Green New Deal to transition our economy to a zero-carbon economy in a 10-year timeframe,” Trent said. “Without subpoena power, without the ability to draft legislation, without the commitment to not put members in seats that are taking money from the fossil fuel industry, then we don’t think we would have the capacity to do so.”

Rising concerns that the Democratic leadership is working to undermine the proposed Green New Deal Select Committee comes as over 40 House members have backed the creation of the panel as a necessary step toward aligning climate policy-making with the latest science, which warns that global carbon emissions must be cut in half by 2040 to avert planetary catastrophe.

According to a survey published this week by Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University, a Green New Deal is extremely popular among the American public. The new poll found that 81 percent of Americans—including 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans—support the ambitious proposal.

Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

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