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Teetering on the edge: The Week in Climate Hearings

We're still cooking with methane; also: murmurations for mutual aid


Unlike the debt ceiling, the climate precipice is real.

The Senate is in recess this week, though the debt ceiling crisis is keeping senators “on call” for an emergency return. The “crisis,” quite simply, is that President Joe Biden is caving to GOP threats to blow up the economy, and the Washington press is acting like this is Bad for Democrats. In his Big Tent newsletter, Brian Beutler tells you all you need to know about the impasse:

With good reason, Democrats like to mock Kevin McCarthy as the dumbest GOP leader any of them has ever had to work with. Nancy Pelosi, who had to work closely with George W. Bush over many years, famously called McCarthy a “moron.” “Does Kevin McCarthy know where he is right now?” her office mocked. Well, joke’s on us, because now Democrats will have to explain how that moron maneuvered them into a trap that we’ve all known about for more than 10 years!

What a humiliating debacle.

Jonathan Chait takes his fellow commentariat to task for normalizing Republican debt-ceiling exortion.

Not coincidentally, the politics of the real crisis of climate change follow the exact same political contours. The civilization-threatening demands of carbon polluters and their political mouthpieces are treated as normal business, while the necessary actions to stave off catastrophe are considered radical and politically ruinous.

The battle over the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) continues. Last week, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), led a group of their colleagues in releasing the Promoting Efficient and Engaged Reviews (PEER) Act, their alternative to the dirty permitting plans of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Republicans.

Today, Carper announced he is retiring from the Senate in 2024 after a career as the human avatar of corporate neoliberalism. The state’s member of Congress, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), is the heir apparent.

On to our weekly look at the hearings on the Hill, where the GOP continues trying to roll back what President Joe Biden’s administration has accomplished in its first two years.

Monday, May 22

Back to the Congressional Review Act again! This afternoon, the House Rules Committee approved S.J.Res. 11, to disapprove the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Trucks tailpipe pollution rule. At the hearing, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) wondered when, if ever, the GOP would get off their CRA kick.

Tuesday, May 23

We’ve got markups! At 10 AM in Transportation and Infrastructure, there’s a markup of legislation to cripple NEPA for port infrastructure projects (H.R. 3316), fight oceanic plastic pollution (H.R. 886), and simplify the disaster relief process (H.R. 1796), among other bills. At 2 PM, the Federal Lands subcommittee of Natural Resources marks up multiple bills on wildfires, logging, timber sales, and fighting Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in Hawaii (H.R. 1726).

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials Terry Cosby, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Zach Ducheneaux, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency testify at 10 AM.

The Natural Resources Water, Wildlife and Fisheries subcommittee, chaired by Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) with ranking member Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), is reviewing the FY 2024 budget for the agencies under its jurisdiction: the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Power Marketing Administrations, with the heads of those agencies.

Finally, a cavalcade of fossil-funded think-tankers, including the Institute for Energy Research’s Kenny Stein, opine on the “domestic energy sector supply chain” for the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.). There will be a lot of discussion of the perfidy of China.

Wednesday, May 24

The hearings listed below are at 10 AM.

The Natural Resources oversight subcommittee holds a skeptical hearing with western-state officials on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed Conservation and Landscape Health rule, which would strengthen conservation as a priority for federal lands management.

Reps. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) are heading up an oversight hearing on the Department of Energy’s proposed energy conservation standards for cooktops—which would compel gas stoves to become much more efficient and less polluting. Republicans and their called witnesses are in favor of gas stoves continuing to poison our children. Oh look, Kenny Stein is one of the witnesses again!

Even as other committees continue their review of the FY2024 budget, he Appropriations committee is putting together the actual bills. Appropriators are marking up the Homeland Security budget, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and the Department of Agriculture budget.

FEMA is fully funded, but the agency’s program to provide emergency care to border-crossing migrants is cancelled. The GOP’s USDA budget is slashed by more than 12 percent from the president’s request, eliminating funding for climate hubs, climate change research, and racial equity programs and rescinding billions in Inflation Reduction Act clean-energy programs for rural America.

Thursday, May 25

At 9 AM, a Natural Resources subcommittee receives testimony from administration officials on the budget request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of Insular Affairs.

RIP, Johnny.

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