Climate Protest in Pelosi’s Office Shows Challenges to Party Unity

(Bloomberg) -- If there were any doubts about the challenges facing House Democrats seeking to forge unity, just ask the 200 or so protesters who swarmed Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand action on climate change.

Bolstered by an appearance by political celebrity congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old political newcomer who beat a 10-term incumbent for a House seat from New York, the protesters staged a “sit-in” in the Democratic leader’s office in the Cannon House Office Building. Their demands included formulating a plan to address climate change, a transition to 100 percent renewable energy, and reject donations from the oil and gas industry.

“The only thing that is standing in the way right now is lack of courage and political leadership,” said 25-year-old Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, a grass-roots group that helped organize the protest.

The protests come as Pelosi seeks to regain her title as House speaker amid calls from some freshman for new Democratic leadership. With Republicans firmly in control of the Senate, legislative action on climate and many other Democratic priorities is seen as highly unlikely.

“We are inspired by the energy and activism of the many young activists and advocates leading the way on the climate crisis, which threatens the health, economic security and futures of all our communities,” Pelosi said in a statement which confirmed she is seeking to re-establish a committee focused on the perils of global warming and how to combat it. “We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.”

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a reply: “Thank you, @NancyPelosi. We have 10 years left to plan and implement a Green New Deal before cataclysmic climate disaster. Reinstating the Select Committee is exactly what we need to do.”

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