House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is facing harsh criticism from climate activists after partaking in a virtual fundraising event for Rep. Joe Kennedy III, frontrunner in the Massachusetts Democrat Senate primary race, on Tuesday.
Hoyer, alongside Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and other Maryland House Democrats who were noted as attendees at the virtual event, opted not to support incumbent Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who carries with him an extensive record of environmental initiatives dating back four decades and a swath of endorsements from various environmental advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club, Environment America, and the Sunrise Movement.
Markey, who ascended to the Senate in 2013, has garnered a following from progressives for his environmental record and in particular for coauthoring the Green New Deal alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Although the proposal was met with skepticism for its drastic provisions — including enormous cuts of carbon emissions and public ownership of utilities — and was ultimately shut down in the Senate, it has earned Markey accolades from many climate leaders such as Sierra Club Massachusetts Director Deb Pasternak, who described him as “the most important climate leader in the U.S. Senate,” according to a Hill report.
“Running against Ed Markey is running against the climate change movement,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) contended last September when Kennedy first launched his campaign.
Hoyer, the second-highest ranking member in the House, backing Kennedy rather than the sitting senator was therefore not received well by some who prioritize environment as a top issue. The frustrations were summed up by Sunrise Movement, a youth group seeking to stem fossil fuel funding in politics, which chided Hoyer on social media for wanting to “unseat” Markey: “Democratic House Majority Leader @StenyHoyer has received millions from oil & gas over his career, he’s the #2 recipient of electric utilities this cycle, and he recently tried to jam a Big Oil handout into #coronavirus relief. It’s no wonder he wants to unseat @EdMarkey.”
The progressive nonprofit Common Dreams reported on additional reactions, including from Hoyer’s own primary challenger, McKayla Wilkes, who cited hypocrisy given the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) push to discourage primary challenges to incumbents. “House Democratic Leadership has worked for over a year to disadvantage progressive primary challengers through the DCCC Blacklist,” said Wilkes. “Now, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is fundraising for a primary challenge against sitting U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. The hypocrisy makes it crystal-clear, Hoyer does not actually have a problem with primary challengers, he has a problem with progressives.”
Hoyer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The grievances come just over a week after Hoyer caused aggravation by saying he is on board with the Energy Department buying up oil at its current record-low prices to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a means of relief for the industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. Oil Change U.S. described Hoyer’s support of the rescue funds as “completely egregious.”
Both Markey and Kennedy have signed on to a “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge” agreeing not to accept 2020 election campaign contributions over $200 from affiliates of the oil, coal, and gas industries. Hoyer, a top recipient of funding from electric utilities during this election cycle, is not listed as a signer.