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The Democrats' plan to have climate plans

Chimney stacks emitting smoke.
Photo: Myshkovsky/Getty

Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are drafting a climate bill — or bills — that would bring the country to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The big picture: Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) yesterday said the aim is to have the legislation written by the end of this year, and the panel is launching a stakeholder process and hearings.

Why it matters: Democrats feel they need to be ready to act if a political window opens after the 2020 elections. Pallone, at a press conference, repeatedly cited the need for "consensus."

Quick take: Republicans' failure to have a plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act after they took full control of Washington in 2017 offers a lesson.

  • Soon after the press conference started, my inbox started filling up with supportive statements from major groups including the Center for American Progress and the Environmental Defense Fund.
  • That's a sign of the Democrats' planning and advance work as they lay the groundwork for post-2020 efforts.

What they're saying: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said the goal is to be ready so that "when there is a force in the White House that accepts the concept of climate change, we can move forward aggressively."

More takeaways...

1. On politics, Bloomberg's Ari Natter points out that it "comes as some Democrats worry the Green New Deal [GND] ... could cost them at the polls."

  • "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has thrown cold water on that plan, which drew Republican derision for its jobs guarantee and other elements," he notes.

2. The big question: Can Democrats thread the political needle on climate legislation even if they win the White House? Tonko said the goal is bipartisan buy-in.

  • But that's a super-heavy lift (which helps explains pressure on the left to kill Senate filibuster rules).

3. The plan drew quick criticism from the left via the Sunrise Movement, a group that's been influential in pushing the GND. They said the Energy and Commerce effort "sets ambition irresponsibly low."

  • The group — citing a major UN scientific report that warns the world needs to achieve net-zero by midcentury to stay within 1.5ºC — says the U.S. should move faster.
  • Standing reminder: Getting the U.S. to net-zero by 2050 would be immensely hard.

4. Pallone sought to downplay the distance with GND advocates. “The ideas that come from the Green New Deal and from those who have been outspoken on the Green New Deal are things that we certainly want to hear,” he said.

Go deeper: 2020 Democrats fight for progressive cred on climate change