- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2022

Staffers for several House Democrats were arrested Monday for protesting inside Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer‘s office in the Capitol, where they demanded he reopen negotiations to force through a party-line climate change bill.

The six aides who invaded the New York Democrat’s office work for some of the House’s most progressive members including Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Ro Khanna of California, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

It was the latest manifestation of Democratic Party infighting, which last week included progressives’ outrage over what they considered weak moves by President Biden to address the climate emergency threatening humanity.

While six were arrested, more than a dozen staffers were part of the sit-in at Mr. Schumer‘s office in the Hart Senate Office Building, according to social media posts. In photos posted on Twitter, the staffers protesting for climate action could be seen with signs that read “Our farms are flooding,” “Climate policy now!” and “Keep negotiating, Chuck!”

“We, staffers of the US Congress, are peacefully sitting in on Senator Schumer‘s office to demand Dems pass climate justice policy this year,” Saul Levin, a policy adviser for Ms. Bush, wrote on Twitter. “We are putting our bodies on the line because we have no other choice.”

Mr. Levin was among those arrested.

Climate advocates, including those from Sunrise Movement, also gathered outside the office building.

The six arrested staffers were charged with unlawful entry for failing to leave Mr. Schumer‘s office after they were directed to do so, U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement to The Washington Times.

Mr. Schumer‘s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While arrests of activists for unlawful protests in lawmakers’ offices are not uncommon on Capitol Hill, it is extremely rare for protesters to be congressional aides.

The demonstration came in the wake of months-long talks on climate change action between Mr. Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia that broke down earlier this month. Mr. Manchin, who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, opposed new spending on climate change efforts that he warned would add to high inflation.

The two had hoped to strike a deal on energy and environment provisions in a party-line spending package known as a budget reconciliation bill that Democrats are eyeing to pass before leaving town for August recess. The breakdown of the talks marked yet another major blow for Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, which suffered a similar setback last year when Mr. Manchin said he would not support the roughly $2 trillion climate and social welfare spending bill known as Build Back Better.

In another climate defeat, the Supreme Court last month slashed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

In response to the setbacks, Mr. Biden took modest executive action last week to further clean energy initiatives but stopped far short of declaring an official climate emergency to unlock additional authorities, frustrating Democrats and environmentalists. 

He has vowed that more action is still to come.

Mr. Manchin has suggested he would be willing to reconsider climate and energy provisions at a later date once inflation significantly falls from its June rate of 9.1%.

Democrats, including Mr. Schumer, remain furious at Mr. Manchin for kneecapping the party‘s agenda just months before the midterm elections.

Other staffers who were arrested included Aria Kovalovich from Mr. Khanna‘s House Oversight Environment Subcommittee; Emma Preston, a legislative assistant for Mr. Khanna; Rajiv Sicora, a policy adviser for Mr. Bowman; Courtney Koelbel, counsel for Mr. Raskin’s House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; and Phillip Bennett, a scheduler for Ms. Omar.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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