Climate Change Splits U.S. Democrats

  • Date: 22/03/19
  • The Hill

Centrist Democrats are pushing back on the fast-paced approach to climate change legislation preferred by “Green New Deal” supporters, arguing instead for a more gradual manner that they think will have a stronger chance of passing and reaching across the aisle.

climate change democrats

The press by members of the New Democrat Coalition and other high-ranking lawmakers illustrates two competing views within the caucus: immediate, innovative legislation versus those who prefer slow, incremental legislating.

“The move is going to be gradual and we’re not going to do 100 percent [renewable energy] over 10 years,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a leader of the New Democrat Coalition’s climate change task force, told reporters last week when asked what kind of legislation the group would pursue.

It’s a very different message than the one that came from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who both introduced the Green New Deal resolution in February.

Ocasio-Cortez called it a “comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice,” while Markey referred to the resolution as a time for the party to be “bold once again.”

The party division is likely to slow work by Democrats on climate change, and advocacy groups are growing frustrated by the inaction almost three months into the new House Democratic majority.

Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to exploit the intra-party division with a Senate vote on the Green New Deal expected next week. The progressive plan, backed to some extent by every Democratic presidential hopeful in the Senate, calls for transitioning the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Speaking to reporters last week, members of the new New Democrat Coalition’s task force on climate change laid out their plans to introduce what they branded realistic climate change initiatives.

“The Green New Deal is aspirational, but what we plan to do is offer tangible achievable things, not just a resolution,” Luria said. “The entire plan of the task force is to find ways to attack this incrementally.”

The lawmakers argued it’s better to take the time to draft complete, heavily vetted legislation with a clear focus, than charge forward with a bill that might have holes.

It’s a timeline that can’t be rushed, he added, pointing to the Clean Air Act of 1963, which he said was created “without a full understanding” of the science, and an exercise he didn’t want to see repeated.

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