BOSTON — On Feb. 7, Massachusetts helped take a giant step forward on climate action, but Rep. Richard Neal was missing in action.
Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey filed a Senate resolution in support of a Green New Deal, in partnership with New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That resolution was largely inspired by the work of (among others) Massachusetts native Varshini Prakash, a recent graduate of UMass-Amherst and the co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, which last November elevated the concept of the Green New Deal to historic levels of prominence.
By the end of the day, Sen. Markey's resolution had been officially co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and eight of nine Massachusetts federal representatives: namely Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Lori Trahan, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Rep. Katherine Clark, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Stephen Lynch, and Rep. Bill Keating. Of the 11 members of Massachusetts congressional delegation (two senators and nine representatives), only Rep. Richard Neal was missing from that list.
This is a mistake that needs to be remedied quickly. As the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Neal will play a pivotal role in deciding what a Green New Deal will look like, and indeed, perhaps whether or not one will move forward at all.
PEOPLE VS. POLLUTERS
Climate change is at a crisis level with impacts already being felt around the world, including in the Berkshires. Congressman Neal needs to decide whether he stands with the people or whether he stands with corporate polluters. To send a clear and unambiguous signal that he stands on the side of the people, Congressman Neal should join Sens. Markey and Warren, Congressman Kennedy, Congresswoman Pressley, and over 100 other political candidates in Massachusetts who have signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge and refused to receive political campaign contributions from fossil fuel company or utility executives and lobbyists so that we know that he will make decisions in the interest of the people, not of corporate donors.
And to fully know the principles that Congressman Neal stands behind as we consider a Green New Deal, he should immediately and without hesitation sign on to the Markey/Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal Resolution to ensure that any Green New Deal advances both bold climate action and tackles head-on the growing inequality crisis that has left behind and marginalized so many people in our country. If he signs on to both the pledge and the resolution, he will have the gratitude and appreciation of all Massachusetts voters who are concerned about the future of our commonwealth, our country, and our climate. If he does not, he should expect a fierce primary challenge in 2020.
Happily, Congressman Neal has a 92 percent lifetime ranking by the League of Conservation Voters, so supporting the Green New Deal is in keeping with the types of positions and policies he has historically supported. Yet while 92 percent sounds high, it is by far the lowest score among Massachusetts' federal delegation. Given that the Green New Deal is the boldest policy brought forth to Congress yet, and thus the best chance we have at securing a livable future, this presents a unique opportunity for Rep. Neal to show his constituents loud and clear that he cares about their future and will not bow to corporate interests as the future of life on earth as we know it is debated in the halls of power.
As the climate crisis intensifies, political leaders will be presented with three clear options: lead, follow, or get out of the way. It is my sincere hope that Rep. Neal chooses options one or two. If he fails to, 350 Mass Action and many others will stand ready to help him with option number three to make way for political leaders who are ready to fight for our future. The time for political politeness is over. The time for courage, directness, and bold action is upon us. Choose wisely, Rep. Neal.
Craig S. Altemose is the executive director of 350 Mass Action, which has volunteer-led climate action chapters across Massachusetts including in the Berkshires.