WASHINGTON – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi displayed a united front on climate change Thursday despite signs they differ on an ambitious plan to remold much of America’s economy known as the “Green New Deal.”
“We are 100 percent in this together,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a news conference as she unveiled the bold proposal that calls for moving the power grid to 100 percent renewable energy by the 2030s. “We have different solutions, and different mechanisms. (But) this issue faces all of us and we are not going to get divided over it. Period.”
Earlier Thursday, Pelosi pronounced the Green New Deal an “enthusiastic” plan that she welcomes.
But fissures could be seen underneath the show of unity.
First, Pelosi announced the members of a special House committee focused on climate, a roster that conspicuously left off Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat who has made global warming a core issue.
Then when asked by reporters about the Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., unveiled Thursday, Pelosi said she hadn’t seen it.
And she indicated the plan, which she referred to as “the green dream or whatever they call it” in an interview with Politico earlier this week, would not get special consideration.
At an afternoon news conference shortly after Pelosi’s remarks, Ocasio-Cortez tried to downplay any division with the speaker.
The congresswoman said she turned down Pelosi’s invitation to serve on the Select Committee on Climate Crisis because she’s already on several other congressional committees, including a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee focusing on the environment.
And she said she’s talked at length with Pelosi about the pressing need for addressing climate change given government reports detailing the threats a warming planet poses.
“Nancy Pelosi is a leader on climate, has always been a leader on climate. And I will not allow this caucus to be divided up by silly notions for whatever narrative,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Asked if the speaker was OK with Ocasio-Cortez’ decision to not serve on the panel, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill responded: “Of course, it’s her decision.”
From her early days of campaigning, Ocasio-Cortez has pushed Republicans and Democrats in Congress to move faster on fighting climate change. Once elected, the freshman lawmaker spent part of her first day of new-member orientation by joining a climate change protest at Pelosi’s office.
The Green New Deal is short on details but long on vision for a cleaner environment that promotes jobs and social justice. It also calls for higher education, housing and job guarantees for all U.S. citizens.
Among its planks is a call for a power grid that phases out fossil fuels and runs completely on renewable fuels, such as solar, wind and hydropower by the 2030s. It advocates a drastic increase in energy efficiency by upgrading all buildings, promoting sustainable farming practices, and developing more high-speed rail.
More: Green New Deal: What is it and what does it mean for climate change?
More: ‘The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,’ Ocasio-Cortez says
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“Our energy future will not be found in the dark of a mine but in the light of the sun,” Markey said.
The plan’s cost would be offset partially by shifting tax breaks from those given to fossil fuels to the electric car industry, Markey cited as an example.
It has the support of some 60 Democrats already and Ocasio-Cortez said she believes a number of Republicans will get behind certain aspects of the proposal.
Advocates concede its prospects of becoming law before 2021 are dim considering Republicans control the Senate and President Donald Trump has often questioned the science behind climate change.
Some Republican critics have panned the effort as a radical idea that’s unrealistic, prohibitively expensive and smacks of socialism.
“The socialist Democrats are off to a great start with the rollout of their ridiculous Green New Deal today!” said Bob Salera, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “The NRCC is asking whether vulnerable House Dems will sign on to the socialists’ plan to ban the energy sources that generate 83 percent of U.S. electricity, along with air travel, and all sorts of other zany ideas.”