Jared Huffman, the member of Congress who represents most of the North Bay, says that climate change is "the greatest moral, economic and environmental imperative of our time." That's the kind of language we use when we feel compelled to take bold action because what we want to achieve is critically important.
What bold action, then, should we expect Rep. Huffman to take?
Huffman laudibly signed on to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's far-reaching Green New Deal resolution. But then he accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's appointment to the new House Select Committee on Climate Crisis—which she has rendered virtually toothless.
Pelosi, who recently referred to the Green New Deal as "the green dream, or whatever they call it," hamstrung the committee by depriving it of the powers routinely given to congressional committees: the power to issue subpoenas and write legislation. Without subpoena power, the committee can't force cabinet members or agency heads appointed by the Trump administration to testify on economic and environmental issues. Nor can it compel fossil-fuel industry officials to provide documents or testify at hearings.
The first obvious question is, if Pelosi believes climate change is a real threat, why would she create such a weak committee? The next question is, if we are truly facing "the greatest moral, economic and environmental imperative of our time"—and we certainly are—why hasn't Huffman spoken up about the powerlessness of this committee?
Huffman's appointment to the select committee would have been a perfect opportunity for him to challenge those severe restrictions that make it more of a façade than a functional legislative panel.
Under the circumstances, Huffman's silence on this crucial matter has been deafening, and deeply disappointing. Why hasn't he publicly and emphatically asserted that the Select Committee on Climate Crisis should have real teeth—including subpoena and bill-drafting powers—so that it can actually make a difference as we all face this greatest moral, economic and environmental imperative of our time?
Is staying in Speaker Pelosi's good graces more "imperative" than really fighting for a Green New Deal to address the climate crisis?
Alice Chan is the 10th Assembly District Delegate to the California Democratic Party.