While the Democrats have been in charge of the U.S. House for four months now, a member of the Florida delegation has grown increasingly prominent on the national stage as part of the leadership.
The daughter of prominent Florida Democrat Betty Castor, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., was first elected to Congress in 2006 and had put in terms on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. But this year, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brought back the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, Castor took a major jump up the ladder as she was picked to lead it.
Castor’s new prominence was pretty evident this past weekend when she was tapped to give the weekly Democratic Address after the House passed her bill to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement on climate change.
“This week, the House passed the first major legislation to address the climate crisis in nearly 10 years. And it won’t be the last, because we are committed to passing climate legislation that works ‘For The People,’ not the corporate polluters,” Castor said. “The Climate Action Now Act is a straightforward bill I sponsored that prevents the Trump administration from breaking America’s commitment and leaving the Paris Climate Agreement. We need to stay in this agreement because it was a major breakthrough. After years of finger-pointing, the United States, China, India, Europe and countries all around the world came together and agreed to cut carbon pollution dramatically.
Support for the landmark agreement is overwhelming. A bipartisan group of 23 governors, nearly 300 cities, and more than 2,000 businesses pledged to honor the Paris climate goals. Now they’ve been joined by the U.S. House of Representatives,” Castor added. “But we know this is just a first step. To address the climate crisis, we need to stop carbon pollution from accumulating in our atmosphere. That requires action. Urgent action. Ambitious action. We simply don’t have any more time for denial or delay. An entire generation has grown up in a rapidly warming world and we are personally experiencing the harm. Scientists say it will get worse, unless we act.
“I know,” Castor continued. “A year and a half ago, I boarded up my home, packed my belongings and fled with my family as that monster Hurricane Irma loomed off the coast of Florida. We were petrified of a devastating storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. We were lucky because we had time to get out of the way. But for too many Americans, the climate crisis is inescapable. Seas are rising. America’s heartland and coasts have suffered unprecedented floods. Snowpack is shrinking and droughts are getting worse. Hot, humid heat waves are becoming more intense, with more days where people cannot safely work outside or play outside. And higher temperatures mean that other pollutants, like ground-level ozone from car exhaust are growing even more damaging to our health. The bottom line is that the climate crisis is costing us. It’s increasing the cost of our health care, our flood and fire insurance, and it’s making costly weather disasters even worse. So we need to cut carbon pollution for the people in our communities, and because we need to do it to create incredible economic opportunities.
“Already, more than 3.2 million Americans are working in clean energy jobs. We can do more and make those quality, family-sustaining jobs that are accessible to everyone,” Castor said. “And we can save people money on energy. Efficiency standards will save us $2 trillion by 2030. And fuel economy standards for our cars are saving the average household $2,800 a year at the pump. I believe in American ingenuity and leadership. When America leads, people, countries and businesses across the globe are inspired to do more.”
Castor then turned to the Trump administration and came out swinging.
“But the Trump administration has been a revolving door for powerful special interests in the fossil fuel lobby. That’s why the president said he wants to take us backwards and cut and run from our commitments,” Castor said. “But America doesn’t cut and run. America keeps its commitments. So despite what the Trump administration says, we are still in this agreement. We have not formally withdrawn. And if – and when – this bill becomes law, we never will. Because we need climate policy that works ‘For The People,’ not well-connected corporate polluters in the Trump administration. That’s why we’re going to cut carbon pollution, protect the people and places we love, advance climate justice, and create a clean energy economy that works for everyone. This is just the start of climate action in this Congress.”
While she’s never shown much ambition to move into the highest level of House leadership, Castor might have the chance to do so if she plays her cards right. Only 52 and representing a secure Democrat district in Hillsborough County, Castor might just be able to move up the ladder, especially as the top Democrats in charge–Pelosi, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-SC–are all in their late 70s.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.