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The Week in Climate Hearings: The House Is Back (Sorta)
No Speaker? No problem for eco-fascist hearings.
House Republicans are continuing their infighting on Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) successor as Speaker of the House. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is the caucus nominee, and is now twisting arms to reach the 217 GOP votes he needs to be elected, on Tuesday at the earliest.
Amid the Republican flailing, the corporatist Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus and Blue Dog Coalition, with the apparent blessing of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), floated an offer to Republicans to keep Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) as a caretaker Speaker pro tempore. McHenry would have the limited powers to extend government funding, bring forward Ukraine and Israel war-financing legislation, and other bills to be split evenly between the two parties and requiring two-thirds approval.
Although I think Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.Y.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Jared Golden (D-Maine), and Susie Lee (D-Nev.) should have asked five Republicans to join the Democratic side, the offer they made is sufficiently reasonable that there’s no chance it will be accepted.
Brian Rosenwald has a strong essay on some of the ways that right-wing media have encouraged Republicans to paint themselves into an extremist corner, which is very worth reading.1
Amid the infighting, Congressional committees are getting back to work.
Eco-Fascists in the House
The degradation of global habitability by unconstrained extractive capitalism is leading inexorably to a rise in refugees from climate disasters, war, and social collapse, a profound challenge in our world of nation-states. In the 1970s, influential white supremacist Garrett Hardin promoted the “solution” of “lifeboat ethics”—the rich nations leaving the people in poor nations to die, blaming them for being dirty and poor. Hardin’s ideology fueled Donald Trump’s ride into the White House, and the House Committee on Natural Resources is continuing the push to dehumanize our fellow people this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee is holding the hearing “Securing Our Border, Saving Our National Parks” premised on the claim that “illegal immigration has significant and well-documented environmental consequences,” with “illegal marijuana grows,” “trash accumulation and habitat destruction.”2 Witnesses include National Park Service deputy director Michael Reynolds, National Forest System deputy chief Chris French, Julie Axelrod of the white-nationalist Center for Immigration Studies, anti-marijuana militiaman John Nores, and Democratic witness Verlon Jose, a leader of the Tohono O’odham Nation on the Arizona border, one of whose members was recently murdered by border patrol agents.
On Thursday, the Federal Lands subcommittee is hearing testimony on three anti-migrant bills. The titles of the legislation drive home the ideological project: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’s (R-Staten Island) “Protecting our Communities from Failure to Secure the Border Act of 2023,” Rep. Tom Tiffany’s (R-Wisc.) “Trash Reduction And Suppressing Harm from Environmental Degradation (TRASHED) at the Border Act,” and Rep. Bruce Westerman’s (R-Ark.) “Ensuring Border Access and Protection on Federal Land Act.” Given these members’ districts, one might think they’re primarily concerned by the dangers of the undermilitarized Canadian border, but no. Westerman’s bill would waive protections against habitat destruction to authorize a continuous road along the entire southern border, and Malliotakis’s bill would prevent the United States from providing housing to migrants on federal lands.
A healthy alternative to this eco-fascist push is limned by climate justice strategist James Mumm in his review of recent eco-socialist works by Andreas Malm and Kim Stanley Robinson.
Other Hearings on Wednesday, October 18
At 10 am, the highways subcommittee of the House transportation committee reviews the health of the Highway Trust Fund, and the Senate environment committee looks at the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strip Clean Water Act protections from wetlands and streams in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.
Later in the morning, Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) face off in a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Biden administration’s slow-walking of offshore oil and gas leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, toxic chemical lobbyists Peter Huntsman, Chris Jahn, and Scott Whitaker will testify why it’s terrible that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken recent action to strengthen regulations on toxic chemicals such as ethylene oxide, chloroprene, particulate matter, and perfluoroalkyl substances. Reproductive scientist Tracey Woodruff will speak as the Democratic witness.
At 10:30 am, the House Natural Resources wildlife subcommittee will hear from witness on three pieces of legislation to reauthorize wildlife programs: the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Enhancements Act; the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education, and Ecosystem Enhancement Act; and the WILD Act, which helps fund game safari parks.
Other Hearings on Thursday, October 19
At 10 am, Senate Energy chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) leads a hearing on the Department of Energy’s grant-making programs funded by Biden’s major infrastructure bills, with DOE witnesses David Crane, Under Secretary for Infrastructure, Jigar Shah, Director of the Loan Programs Office, and Inspector General Teri Donaldson.
Also at 10 am, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee interviews the career diplomats who are Biden’s ambassadorial nominees to Somalia, Liberia, and Egypt— Richard H. Riley IV, State Department spokesman and former Liberian Peace Corps volunteer Mark Toner, and Kurdish-American Herro Mustafa Garg respectively.
At 10:30 am, House Energy and Commerce energy, climate, and grid security subcommittee holds a hearing on “the role of artificial intelligence in powering America’s energy future,” because House Republicans missed the opportunity to hold an equivalently nonsensical hearing touting blockchain for the energy sector before the crypto bubble burst.
In case it seems strange that there’s hearings like this, Brendan Bordelon has a helpful explanation: Silicon Valley AI investors are placing AI policy “fellows” throughout Washington. In particular, billionaire Dustin Moskovitz is laundering millions of dollars through a cut-out non-profit named the Horizon Institute for Public Service to put tech fellows drawn from the effective altruism cult into the offices of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), whose Horizon fellow is the former co-director of Effective Altruism NYC.
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My primary critique of Rosenwald’s piece is that he doesn’t explore the decline of the countervailing forces, which is just as important in understanding the collapse of one of our two major parties.
The Republican concern about habitat destruction miraculously disappears when it’s done by heavy machinery building roads and border walls.