Manuel Quiñones: Hello, everyone. So, the global warming panel that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wants to bring back is causing a big stir on Capitol Hill, and so is the leadership fight among the Democrats to see whether Pelosi does stay in power and become speaker next year. We have some folks who have been covering all the stuff going on on the Hill this week including Nick Sobczyk, George Cahlink and Mark Matthews.
Let's start with Nick Sobczyk. Give us a primer about what's going on with climate. The Democrats won. We have been doing stories about whether climate was going to be a big deal, and then suddenly freshman orientation starts and climate is the big deal. What's going on?
Nick Sobczyk: Yeah. It's been the sort of first fight the Democratic caucus is having ahead of a new Congress. Nancy Pelosi floated this idea of bringing back the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming a couple weeks ago, and then Alexandria Cortez and other incoming progressives have really sort of latched on to this, and now they are pushing for what would be a panel to create a Green New Deal platform. And now this has angered you might say the committees of jurisdiction, so Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone has been especially --
Manuel Quiñones: Future chairman.
Nick Sobczyk: Future chairman, incoming Chairman Frank Pallone has been especially outspoken about this, and he essentially argues that it's not necessary and, in fact, it might slow us down because the select committee will have to take time to staff up. So, it's been this fight behind closed doors.
Manuel Quiñones: And where do you see it going? Do you see it ending any time soon? Is it just going to keep on going and getting worse? Dumpster fire?
Nick Sobczyk: Well, it's unclear as of now because we'll have to see what's the final proposal for the select panel because part of the issue is whether or not this panel should have legislative power or whether it should just be a messaging committee, and we don't know exactly yet how that debate is going to shake out, or the debate over whether we'll have this at all.
Manuel Quiñones: And it's worth mentioning that several committees have already announced that they want to have hearings on climate early next year, so I guess they're kind of like wanting to pre-empt the global warming panel potential future of just holding hearings.
Nick Sobczyk: Yes. The chairman of ENC, Natural Resources and Science incoming chairman put out a press release that specifically mentioned that they are the committees of jurisdiction on climate change, so that was an interesting little tidbit to throw into there.
Manuel Quiñones: Mark, tell me. You've written a lot about what this Green New Deal is and all that. What is it that they want, and is it feasible? Is it something that the caucus can get behind?
Mark Matthews: I mean, if you put the two words together it's like catnip for Democrats. You have "Green" for the environmental stuff and then you have "New Deal." Which Democrat is not going to support it? In fact, Frank Pallone, which Nick said is currently trying to protect his turf to keep away the select committees, we're going to handle climate change, just this morning the same protests were outside Nancy Pelosi's office on Tuesday were outside his office, and he was going back and forth on Facebook and in his office about these things.
He disagreed with a couple of their premises. He's like, "I don't want the select committee. I don't agree with your idea of having all the committee chairs and leadership not accept fossil fuel contributions." So, for a lot of these things he was against them, but on the Green New Deal he said, "Sure. This is something that we can aggressively go after in January." Why? Because right now the details are so out there.
They talk about smart grids, they talk about renewables, they talk about things such as a guaranteed jobs program, forgetting for a second how any of this is going to work. As a simple messaging strategy and a rallying cry, sure, everyone is going to support that. So, he is kinda backing that. I think, and this is all part about all these really interesting power dynamics that we're seeing on the Hill right now that Nick said.
I think that Nancy Pelosi was pretty smart of what she did right here, which was in response to some of these young Democrats who were calling for this New Green Deal committee, she says, "Well, let's bring back the select committee" which initially I thought like, well, is she throwing a curveball their way? But I now I see her, she's almost co-opting their message a little bit, and for her who's feuded a little bit with Frank Pallone in the past, this is a little bit of kind of an elbow right here being like, "Hey, I'm doing this" and maybe she's able to get some support from some of these new Democrats like Joe Neguse out of Colorado by sort of co-opting their message, and maybe that helps her in her bid to keep her speaker's job.
Manuel Quiñones: And then, George, I want to go to you on this. Do you think it helps her or do you think it might just blow up in her face by not taking a stand on it? She seems to be kind of on the sidelines.
George Cahlink: Yes. Sort of the playing field is this, is Nancy Pelosi right now is the only Democrat running for speaker. She's expected to get the support of her caucus next week for speaker, however to win the vote for speaker it's a vote of the full House. You need 218 votes. Democrats probably will have somewhere around 230 seats come January 3rd when they vote, and there's already been some size defections, 12-15 Democrats. Nobody is clear on exactly who or how many are saying they might not vote for her.
So, Pelosi is finding herself scrambling to make sure she has votes. One of the ways she can secure some of these votes is really in the progressives with the slight climate caucus. She knows that committee chairman, Palone, Grijalva, Neal on Ways and Means, some of the others, are going to vote for her. They're committee chairmen. They want to keep those jobs. They'll back her. She needs some of the young progressives, the energy there, and I think by offering this she attracts some of that potentially.
It doesn't hurt her to pick this fight. In fact, yesterday she had a weekly press conference and she called on me first and she knew 'cause I've been bugging her press secretary all week that I'd want to ask something about the green deal, and she was more than happy to talk about this panel and how there was a moral imperative to do climate change. Why? Because she'd rather talk about that than talk about the leadership race. She eventually did take some leadership race questions.
She said she had the votes. But this for her is a topic that she's good on. The environmental community has long been Nancy Pelosi fans, and it's not hard for her to be seen as supportive of that. I don't think she loses any votes by supporting this and maybe picks up some from the younger progressives.
Mark Matthews: Yeah, and it's notable, too, that the League of Conservation Voters came out almost immediately for Nancy Pelosi for speaker. I thought that was an interesting dynamic. But at the same time, too, we caught up with Steny Hoyer at the Capitol on Wednesday and we asked him, "Do you support Nancy Pelosi's idea for a select panel?" And the number two Democrat, a guy who has already locked up the votes to be majority leader, he said, "No, we shouldn't do a select committee. We should keep it with the committees that we have right now." So, there's a split between the one and two Democrats.
George Cahlink: There is, and it's kind of the longest running feud on Capitol Hill. It goes back decades, and Hoyer of course kind of has the support of a lot of the sort of committee chairmen and that's his base of votes, the Frank Pallones of the world. Pelosi has those, but she also wants to pick off some of these new progressives to make sure she has the job security. And to your point earlier, I do think there has been a feud in the past between Pallone and Pelosi.
Pelosi did not back Pallone to be ranking member of this committee in 2014. Apparently, her and Palone have patched things up. They worked in health care together. That's what their staff say, they get along a lot better now, they don't have any problems, but maybe we're seeing some of that re-emerging.
Mark Matthews: I mean, revenge is a dish best served cold, right?
George Cahlink: And just not to get too far back in history, but remember why Pelosi originally created this panel is because John Dingell was slow-walking global warming legislation back in 2007. Well, she created the select panel and a few years later ran Waxman against Dingell and took him out. Now I'm not saying it's going to go that far, but I'm just saying there's a lot of history.
Manuel Quiñones: And I saw a quote somewhere saying from Dingell's wife, Debbie Dingell, who's now on the Hill, saying basically, "My husband is not here anymore. Maybe this is not a fight that we need."
George Cahlink: Yeah. Debbie Dingell had some fun with that one. When I asked her about the panel, she gave me a sort of serious answer. She said, "But I could be flip and say John Dingell is not here anymore." She doesn't support the panel. She's a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee herself. Like all the members of the committee they think they're the ones to best write the legislation and they're not interested in giving up any authority to a new select panel.
Nick Sobczyk: It's worth noting as well, too, that Grijalva at least appears to oppose this idea of a select panel, and he is a leader of the House Progressive Caucus and also worth adding that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told you the other day that, or she at least suggested that the select panel would affect her vote for speaker.
George Cahlink: Yeah. We chased her down the hall and said, "What about the speaker?" She said that climate would be an important factor in who she backs for speaker as we've certainly seen this week. She attracts a lot of attention and interest, so, if she gets behind a candidate who's committed to climate it could make a lot of difference. But a big point on the Pelosi speakership race, right now it's only Nancy Pelosi running. So, before people automatically assume she's in trouble, she's not going reach people, there's not even another candidate.
Manuel Quiñones: Is Marcia Fudge if she runs --
George Cahlink: I was just over in the Capitol today. Marcia Fudge was in Nancy Pelosi's office meeting with her, so, I'm not convinced that will happen. She said, "Well, I'm looking at the race." That's what she keeps saying, "I'm looking at the race, I'm looking at the race."
Manuel Quiñones: Mark, you wanted to say something?
Mark Matthews: I just wanted to jump in. For these new younger Democrats who are pushing for this Green New Deal committee, I think it's important to note that one of the stipulations that they want is that they want membership to be limited to folks who have not taken fossil fuel contributions.
Nick Sobczyk: That's a lot of people.
Mark Matthews: And that's going eliminate a lot of people. I see this and we've talked about this before. It's been increasingly a litmus test in the Democratic Party, and that's an extension of that. That's an extension of what the Sunrise Movement is trying to do on that. I don't know how much power that has and how much sway.
I mean, we saw this summer that the Democratic National Committee very briefly did ban contributions from political action committees tied to the fossil fuel industry, and that resolution was actually pushed for by Christine Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi's daughter. That was in play for a couple weeks before it kind of got shot down and pushed back. So, I mean, there is very clearly tension in the Democratic Party over this issue, and I think this is a continuation of that and manifestation of that.
Manuel Quiñones: Before we wrap up, the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan big tent group. It's coming back? It's still alive?
Nick Sobczyk: Yeah. It appears to still be alive. They have still around 20, a little over 20 Republicans in the caucus and that were not eliminated even though a significant number of their Republicans were taken out in the election. But yeah, it appears to be coming back and its co-chairman, its Republican co-Chairman Carlos Curbelo is gone. I just had an interview with him today, and he listed a couple members that could sort of pick up the GOP climate mantle including Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Francis Rooney who is from Florida.
Mark Matthews: Rooney is an interesting cat. I talked to him down in Florida. He has no reason politically to be gung-ho on climate. Unlike Curbelo, who was facing a district that went for Clinton by 16 percentage points in 2016, he is a safe district around Fort Myers. I mean, Trump went down there during the campaign to gin up votes for Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis. This is Trump territory.
Manuel Quiñones: And let's leave it there, but we'll meet again in this space to keep talking about the transition into a Democratic-controlled House. You can also go to our website eenews.net. There's a reports button on the top right part of the page.
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