Bonamici named to House panel on climate change
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici is one of nine new Democrats on a revived House select committee on climate change.
Her appointment Thursday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the latest in a series of assignments that have resulted in the first subcommittee chairmanship for the Beaverton Democrat in her seven years in the 1st District congressional seat of northwest Oregon.
Democrats won a majority in the 2018 election, giving them control of the chamber — and as a Democrat in the House's majority party for the first time, Bonamici has gained new prominence.
She retained her seats on the Education and Labor Committee, where she leads a new subcommittee on civil rights and human services, and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Bonamici won a fourth full House term in the Nov. 6 election. Her district covers Clatsop, Columbia, Washington and Yamhill counties, and Multnomah County west of the Willamette River.
Even though the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis cannot originate legislation by itself, it does put a renewed House focus on the issue. The previous select committee operated from 2007 to 2011, when Pelosi was speaker, but was abolished when Republicans won a majority in 2010 — and many Republicans were skeptics or outright deniers. of climate change.
Bonamici joins Chairwoman Kathy Castor of Florida, three Democrats from California, and one each from Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico and Virginia. No Republicans have been named yet.
"For the last several years, political realities have prevented bold climate policies from coming to the House floor despite repeated calls for action from scientists and members of our communities. Before House Democrats took back the majority, it had been nearly a decade since the House held productive hearings on climate change.
"I look forward to working with Select Committee Chair Castor and my colleagues to fight for comprehensive policies that will strengthen the economy and protect our planet for future generations."
Green New Deal
Bonamici is among the cosponsors of a new resolution, known as the "Green New Deal," which sets a goal of 2030 for putting the United States solely on renewable sources of energy and away from fossil fuels. According to the Energy Information Administration, the 2017 U.S. mix was just under 13 percent from renewable sources and 78 percent from coal, natural gas and oil. Nuclear energy accounted for the rest.
Other cosponsors are Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, all Democrats.
The term "Green New Deal" goes back to a 2008 book by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "Hot, Flat and Crowded."
The resolution is less specific than other clean-energy plans proposed in previous congressional sessions, including one Merkley sponsored in 2017 with Sens. Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey and Cory Booker, but is an attempt to set up a framework.
Critics say it sets an unrealistic goal and would result in mass economic dislocations. Advocates say steps are needed to cushion the effects of any plan on low-income households.
Bonamici said the topic needs to be discussed now, given the 2018 warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the United Nations that nations may have only a dozen years to avert the worst effects of climate change.
"The science is clear; the consequences of inaction on climate change will be serious and swift," Bonamici said about numerous events ranging from severe wildfires to ocean acidification in the Northwest.
"We have the opportunity and the imperative to reverse and mitigate the worst effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to clean energy sources while creating new, good-paying jobs."
On the Science, Space and Technology Committee, Bonamici will sit on subcommittees on the environment — where she was its top Democrat for the past four years — and on investigations and oversight.
She has been a prominent critic of President Donald Trump's appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt — who resigned amid ethics questions — and Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who awaits a vote of the full Senate to confirm him as Pruitt's successor.
"I will continue to hold this administration, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency, accountable for its failure to protect human health and the environment," she said.
On the Education and Labor Committee, which reverted to that name after Republicans renamed it the Education and Workforce Committee for eight years, Bonamici was named by Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., to lead a new subcommittee on civil rights and human services. (House members can lead only one subcommittee.)
"We need to do more deliver on the promise of an equitable, world-class public education for every student in this country," she said. "To achieve this goal, we must protect civil rights and provide essential human services."
She promised more thorough oversight of the Departments of Education and Labor. She has been a vocal critic of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an advocate of charter schools with no experience in education when Trump named her to his Cabinet.
The subcommittee also is likely to lead the effort to renew the Older Americans Act, originally passed in 1965 and most recently renewed in 2016. The law authorizes federal aid to an array of programs such as meals, senior centers, job training and support for caregivers.
Bonamici also will sit on the higher education and workforce investment subcommittee.
She is co-chairwoman of three House caucuses, which are not official committees: Oceans, Estuaries and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), and is co-founder of the latter group.