The Ways and Means Committee yanked an invitation for former GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo to testify at a hearing next week after other Democrats became enraged that the panel was offering a prized platform to a longtime foe.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) on Friday officially rescinded the invititation to Curbelo — who was invited by Democrats and slated to testify about climate change — after facing widespread pressure throughout the caucus, including from leadership.
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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) approached Neal on the floor on Thursday and told him to cancel the hearing entirely, according to multiple Democratic sources. So far, Neal has only rescinded Cubelo’s invitation, but multiple sources said Neal is still being pressured to cancel the hearing entirely and could end up doing so.
Other objections came from Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), who narrowly beat Curbelo in 2018 and could face him again in 2020, as well as House Democrats’ campaign arm and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, according to Democratic aides.
Curbelo took a shot at Democrats on Twitter Friday for pulling his invite, slamming “petty partisans who prefer to exploit this issue for political gain.” His spokesman declined to comment further, directing POLITICO to the tweet.
“Mr. Hoyer felt it would be inappropriate for Mr. Curbelo to testify given he has been unclear about his 2020 electoral plans and has a long track record of being unable to persuade his Republican colleagues that climate change is real and needs to be addressed,” said Mariel Saez, a Hoyer spokeswoman.
A Mucarsel-Powell spokesman said she “isn’t a member of the committee and doesn’t have control over who’s invited.”
Spokespeople for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Ways and Means Committee declined to comment. A CHC spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
The issue started boiling up in the caucus earlier this week after word spread among the rank and file that Democrats on the committee had asked Curbelo to testify.
The news stunned and infuriated members of the Hispanic caucus, including Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), a member of Ways and Means and a former CHC chair. The DCCC and other Democrats also objected, saying privately that it was ridiculous for the Democratic members of the panel to give Curbelo such an opportunity when he has yet to rule out a rematch for his old seat.
Mucarsel-Powell was incensed, according to sources, and even attempted to approach Neal on the floor Thursday to talk about it. Instead, the freshman Democrat accidentally went up to Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, mistaking him for Neal, according to a Democratic aide.
Democrats spent millions of dollars trying to oust Curbelo after he flipped the seat in 2014, falling short in 2016 before Mucarsel-Powell successfully won back the district last year. But the Miami-area swing seat is still a vulnerable district for Democrats and Curbelo would be a strong challenger.
Some Democrats publicly joined Curbelo in criticizing the decision.
“This is a mistake & very disappointing. Addressing climate change requires bipartisan cooperation & solutions,” tweeted Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a moderate Democrat who represents Orlando and leads the center-left Blue Dog Coalition. “I hope @WaysMeansCmte reconsiders its decision to disinvite him.”
A co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, Curbelo was one of the few House Republicans to embrace action on climate change and resisted President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Last year, Curbelo became the first GOP lawmaker in a decade to offer a significant climate change bill, pushing to tax carbon and direct much of the revenue into infrastructure investments.