Congress

Democrats on House panel get a lesson: Showing up is important

Republican walkout came at subcommittee hearing on climate change

Rep. Louie Gohmert was able to halt a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday after some Democrats failed to show. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats on a House Natural Resources panel got a lesson in full-tackle politics Tuesday when only two members of the majority showed up to a hearing and Republicans shut it down before witnesses spoke.

After opening statements from the chairman and ranking member of the panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas successfully moved to adjourn, a measure Republicans agreed to by a vote of 4-2.

The hearing, which resumed after some Democrats returned, was officially titled “The Denial Playbook: How Industries Manipulate Science and Policy from Climate Change to Public Health” — which caused Republicans to bristle.

 

“It appears today’s hearing topic is well outside our jurisdiction,” Gohmert said. “It can be inferred from the hearing’s title there’s industry denial about climate change.”

GOP Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mike Johnson of Louisiana, as well as Del. Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico, joined Gohmert in voting to adjourn. Subcommittee Chairman TJ Cox of California and Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan voted against the motion.

Democrats organized the hearing to draw parallels between how fossil fuel industries have denied climate science and how the National Football League, large pharmaceutical firms and the tobacco sector backed efforts to sow doubt about science that could negatively impact their reputations and finances.

“Each of these cases is a variation of the playbook perfected by the tobacco industry,” said David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University and the author of “Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health.”

Republicans said the topics were matters for other House committees to take up.

In a statement sent after the hearing, Kristina Baum, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the committee, said the committee does not “have jurisdiction over EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, clean energy, or even climate science.”

Committee Republicans had been properly notified about the hearing plans with adequate time, a Democratic staffer said.

The Democrats brought four witnesses to the hearing, including former NFL linebacker Chris Borland, who is critical of the league’s work to muddle the connections between head injuries and football. 

The Republicans did not offer any witnesses. It was the Republicans’ plan to vote immediately to end the hearing all along, according to a Democratic staffer.

“It’s going to be hard to recalibrate that same hearing again,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, chairman of the full committee, said in a brief interview. “There’ll be others. We’ve had a bunch, especially on other things that are more top drawer.”

After Cox resumed the hearing, he said the Republican walkout epitomized obstructionism on climate change.

“I don’t think we could offer a better example of climate denial,” Cox said of the maneuver.

Jacob Holzman contributed to this report.

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