Democratic Party officials oppose debate focused on climate change

Democratic officials and activists have been at odds over a climate debate

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday rejected a proposal for an official climate change debate for the party’s presidential candidates, pitting party officials against activists who believe Democrats aren’t taking the issue seriously heading into 2020.

The measure failed 17-8 before the DNC’s resolutions committee. Party officials, including DNC Chair Tom Perez, have opposed tweaking the party’s debate rules to allow candidates to share a stage for single-issue debates. (The party has allowed candidates to appear at single-issue forums and town halls.)

"If we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign’s signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we’ve had?" Perez wrote in a June blog post. "How do we say no to other candidates in the race who may request debates focused on an issue they’ve made central to their own campaigns?"

Advocates for the climate change debate could try to bring up the measure again at the party’s general session later this weekend.

Activists with Sunrise Movement, an environmental group that staged a climate-change sit-in at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office early this year, have been out in full force at the DNC meetings, attending the committee meeting and protesting against the vote.

The young organizers, along with Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have helped push climate change to the center of the Democratic primary. Nearly all of the party’s presidential candidates are putting forward their own environmental policy proposals, and many will participate in a climate-focused town hall hosted by CNN next month. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., released his Green New Deal proposal on Thursday.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who framed his entire campaign around fighting climate change, dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday night after missing the cut for the next round of debates.

More than a dozen presidential candidates will address party delegates this weekend in San Francisco, giving many an opportunity to mingle with activists and Democratic insiders from across the country ahead of primary voting.

Thursday’s committee meeting wasn’t the only display of tensions within the party in San Francisco.

On Wednesday, progressive pro-impeachment organizers disrupted a local party dinner where Speaker Pelosi was receiving an award, calling on her to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.