Powerful Democratic House member pledges support for a Green New Deal
With more than a hundred climate activists gathered outside his office, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said he would endorse the creation of a select committee for a Green New Deal. The announcement is the latest success for the youth-led Sunrise Movement’s lobbying efforts.
Monday marked the largest convergence to date of Green New Deal supporters on Capitol Hill. More than a thousand activists from the Sunrise Movement, a group committed to swift climate action, fanned out to several House offices to lobby members to support the creation of a select committee. The committee would have the authority to create a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” allowing the United States to swiftly become carbon-neutral within a decade as proposed under the Green New Deal.
And it was during their visits to House member offices when McGovern, one of the most powerful Democrats, affirmed his support. McGovern is among nearly 25 Democratic House members and three Democratic senators, plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), to join the call for a committee to tackle a Green New Deal.
“I am committed to the House Select Committee on a Green New Deal to deal with the issue of climate change and so many other things,” McGovern told the activists in his office. “I want to make sure it happens.”
McGovern is in line to become the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which oversees all processes for House committees and their jurisdiction. As committee chairman, McGovern will have influence over a select committee on a Green New Deal’s jurisdiction. The office of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), though, ultimately decides which committees are formed.
Lots of joy and applause as incoming Rules Committee chair affirms his support for a Select Committee on a #GreenNewDeal and the bold climate action we need.@NancyPelosi, @WhipHoyer: you're next. Will you stand with us? There are #NoExcuses for anything less. pic.twitter.com/kVlQHTTuEf
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) December 10, 2018
The activists view the Democratic takeover of the House in the midterm elections as a perfect chance to set the agenda for climate action in 2019. They singled out McGovern, Pelosi, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the second ranking Democrat in the House for special attention on Monday.
Capitol Police arrested more than 140 activists who participated in sit-ins outside the offices of Pelosi and Hoyer. The goal of the sit-ins was to get the Democratic leaders to endorse the idea of a select committee.
“We put the Green New Deal on the map. It’s part of the national conversation. Climate change, for one of the first times, is actually at the top of the policy agenda for Democrats going into 2019,” Victoria Fernandez, a co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, told ThinkProgress on Monday. “We are here today in large numbers to keep it there.”
Proposed by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the Sunrise Movement, and the political action committee Justice Democrats, a draft of the Green New Deal establishes a select committee with the authority to create a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to push the United States to swiftly become carbon-neutral.
The Green New Deal also promises to give every American a job in the new green economy: installing solar panels, retrofitting coastal infrastructure, manufacturing electric vehicles.
Along with McGovern, the Sunrise Movement expects several more Democratic House members will offer their support for the select committee before the end of the year.
During Monday’s lobbying day, almost two dozen Sunrise Movement activists went to the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), for example, who will serve as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the next Congress. Jayapal also has served as a co-chair of the House Democrats’ United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force.
Jayapal did not meet with the activists who showed up in her House office. But her legislative assistant, Danielle Fulfs, told them that Jayapal has been meeting with leaders of the Sunrise Movement and that she hopes to make a decision on whether to support the select committee in the next few days.
“We’re really hoping she signs on, if not today, at least before the current Congress ends,” Fernadez said. “It’s really important that everyone who even has an inclination of supporting the Green New Deal comes out enthusiastically and explicitly in support of the select committee for the Green New Deal so that there’s a better chance of keeping it on the 2019 agenda.”
Jayapal represents Washington’s seventh congressional district, which encompasses Seattle and surrounding areas. It’s the most Democratic district in the Pacific Northwest and the most Democratic district on the West Coast outside of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Many of Jayapal’s constituents were among the two dozen activists who gathered in her office on Monday to urge her to support the select committee.
“Three weeks ago, the Green New Deal was a niche policy that was not on the map,” said Fernandez, who also serves as director of data management for the Sunrise Movement. But now it is, she added, “because young people took bold action and brought the Green New Deal right to the people who make the decisions.”
Fernandez said the Sunrise Movement is targeting Democrats because “we actually believe they want to do this. But we need to see it now. We have 12 years that the United Nations says we have to stop this crisis.”
Climate deniers in the Republican party, on the other hand, may not be convinced to back a Green New Deal or go against what their fossil fuel funders want, according to Fernandez.
Climate activists have been urging lawmakers to take a no fossil fuel pledge. Taking the pledge means that a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies.
“Even though a majority of voters — Democratic and Republican — believe in climate change and want the government to do something, Republicans and Democrats who take money from fossil fuel CEOs are not going to be the ones to champion that,” she said. “Our movement has worked to replace those people and will continue to do that in the years to come.”