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Democrats grapple with climate plan

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Capitol hill hallways
Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

More information about House Democrats' plan to create a new select committee on clean energy and global warming is emerging — and creating tension between party leaders and insurgent progressives.

Why it matters: The inside baseball reflects broader, more consequential questions and deliberations over how the party should prepare to act on climate policy if a political window for big legislation opens after the 2020 elections.

Driving the news: Via The Hill, Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, told reporters that the panel is not expected to have subpoena power. A leadership aide confirmed this to Axios and other outlets.

The intrigue: That drew pushback from progressive Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office and youth-led activists pushing for a Select Committee on a "Green New Deal."

  • They envision the panel having investigative power in addition to writing a sweeping draft legislative proposal on climate, clean energy and jobs that's ready for launch in 2020.
  • Two groups backing the plan — the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats — accused Hoyer of offering a "toothless proposal."

What they're saying:

"Our goal is to treat Climate Change like the serious, existential threat it is by drafting an ambitious solution on the scale necessary — aka a Green New Deal — to get it done. A weak committee misses the point & endangers people."
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a tweet
"Subpoena power is granted to committees in the standard [H]ouse rules. ... We are simply asking for what is the usual power granted to all committees."
— Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, via Twitter

The other side: The Democratic leadership aide said the intention not to grant subpoena power reflects how leadership envisions the new panel working with existing committees.

  • "The plan going forward will be for the select committee chair to work in close coordination with a standing committee chair should an issue arise," the aide said.
  • "Obviously depending on the issue that could be a different chair on different topics."