Incoming Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) is seeking a seat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee even after she clashed with the next chairman of the panel over climate change.
And this comes as Ocasio-Cortez has thrown her support to Nancy Pelosi for speaker, saying on Twitter last week that “so long as Leader Pelosi remains the most progressive candidate for Speaker, she can count on my support.” As House Democratic leader, Pelosi will have a big say on committee assignments heading into the next Congress.
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Ocasio-Cortez has sounded out Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and other Democrats about a seat on Energy and Commerce, according to Democratic sources. Energy and Commerce is one of the oldest committees in the House and has jurisdiction over a huge swatch of policy issues, including health care, environmental issues, and energy policy. All these issues are important to Ocasio-Cortez.
But getting onto Energy and Commerce will be no easy feat, even for a young political star like Ocasio-Cortez, who gained national prominence in June after she defeated Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.) in a Democratic primary. Crowley was seen by some as a potential future speaker, and Ocasio-Cortez’s victory — coupled with her immense social media following and aggressive posture on key issues like health care — have made her a powerful figure among party activists.
Ocasio-Cortez is pushing hard for a “Green New Deal,” a proposal that calls for obtaining 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable energy sources. Ocasio-Cortez has drafted a resolution calling for the creation on a select committee to handle this initiative.
That resolution has led Ocasio-Cortez and other incoming Democratic freshmen into a faceoff with the Energy and Commerce Committee, which wants to keep its jurisdiction over the issue. Pelosi has already signaled that she wants to bring back the climate change select committee that existed from 2006-2010, the last time Democrats held the House.
Ocasio-Cortez and her aides did not respond to repeated requests for comment via email and phone about her push to serve on Energy and Commerce.
In a statement, Pallone was noncommittal on Ocasio-Cortez’s bid for a seat on his panel but was pleased that the New York Democrat wanted to join.
“I welcome Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s and other members’ interest in the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Pallone said in a statement. “The actual decision will ultimately be made by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.”
Decisions on committee assignments will not be made until Democratic leaders have been elected. Thanks to the big Democratic win on Election Day, Pelosi and other party leaders will have seats on key committees like Energy and Commerce, Appropriations and Ways and Means to dole it. There is already intense jockeying going on behind-the-scenes for these seats.
Ocasio-Cortez and Pallone have found themselves on the opposite sides of an internal House Democratic Caucus dispute over the climate change select committee. During a recent caucus meeting, Pallone led a group of Energy and Commerce Democrats who spoke out against the elect committee, while Ocasio-Cortez led a group of incoming freshmen who want to see such a panel created. With Pelosi’s backing — and assuming she is speaker — that is likely to happen.
While this dispute may be one more of tactics than goals — the Democratic Caucus is overwhelmingly progressive and in favor of legislative steps to address that issue — how such legislation is crafted, and whether it will get any bipartisan support at all is to be seen.
A new U.S. government report released Friday says that climate change will have a growing impact on American society and the economy, “presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth,” according to its executive summary.
President Donald Trump — in the face of overwhelming evidence showing the contrary — argues that climate change isn’t real and has withdrawn the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, which sought to build a global consensus to mitigate climate change.