Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday the Democratic National Committee informed him it will not dedicate one of its presidential primary debates to the issue of climate change.
The decision comes despite a furious push from progressive and environmental advocates for a climate change debate, as well as strong support across the Democratic ideological spectrum. At least half a dozen Democratic candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and former Obama cabinet official Julián Castro, have backed the idea.
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Inslee, who led the push among presidential candidates and has made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign, called the decision “deeply disappointing” and out of step with Democratic primary voters. He also said the organization threatened not to invite him to future debates if he participated in any other climate change debate.
“The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field who want to debate the existential crisis of our time,” Inslee said in a statement. “The climate crisis merits a full discussion of our plans, not a short exchange of talking points.”
Inslee continues to roll out policies outlining his plans for combating climate change. On Wednesday, he unveiled his strategy for international engagement on the issue, which emphasizes rejoining a host of international climate pacts beyond just the Paris accord; applying stronger climate requirements for trade agreements and ending fossil fuel subsidies around the world.
In a statement, the DNC said climate change would remain a top priority during the debates but that it hoped to ensure “vigorous discussion” on all important issues to voters like the economy, climate change and health care.
“While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters,” the DNC said.
Progressive organizations like the Sunrise Movement, which has led the push for a Green New Deal to decarbonize the U.S., slammed the decision, as did other environmental advocates.
“This is an outrage,” the Sunrise Movement said in a tweet. “This is an emergency. We need @TheDemocrats to act like it.”
The Sierra Club and Tom Steyer’s NextGen America also urged the DNC to reconsider.
“This is a deeply disappointing decision,” the Sierra Club said in a tweet. “Democratic candidates are offering strong, bold climate plans that contrast sharply with Trump’s inaction & the public deserves to hear them discussed in depth.”