Nov 18, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The early skirmishes over Biden's Cabinet

Cedric Richmond and Joe Biden

Cedric Richmond and Joe Biden. Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

"U.S. environmental activists are heaping pressure on Democratic president-elect Joe Biden to avoid Cabinet appointees with fossil fuel ties," Reuters points out.

Why it matters: The incoming Biden administration is starting to announce important personnel picks, with Cabinet choices looming, and activists are keen to see advocates of aggressive climate policies.

Driving the news: In one early skirmish, some activists are upset over the selection of Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond as senior adviser and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • The job, per Politico, involves outreach and collaboration with outside interests including climate advocates.
  • Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash called the selection a "betrayal," citing substantial oil-and-gas industry donations to Richmond during his House careers, among other criticisms.

Quick take: It's the green movement's job to seek allies who have the president's ear and power within the White House. "Personnel is policy," as Sen. Elizabeth Warren likes to say.

  • But come on, man. The (likely) GOP Senate and the judiciary are way bigger checks on Biden's climate ambitions than these staffing decisions.

What we're watching: These battles going forward (if indeed there are more) are likely to show the strategic differences between various parts of the green movement.

  • Groups on the left flank, like Sunrise, and Greenpeace, won't hesitate to criticize decisions openly, while more establishment groups with stronger ties to the Democratic party prefer to try and exert influence privately.

Where it stands: The New York Times has a look at how the incoming administration hopes to see new climate policies emerge governmentwide, not just environmental and resource agencies.

  • "Biden’s inner circle routinely asks 'is the person climate-ambitious?' of candidates even for lower profile positions like the White House budget and regulatory offices, according to a person advising the transition."
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