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Biden pick of John Podesta as climate czar sparks joint congressional investigation

Biden pick of John Podesta as climate czar sparks joint congressional investigation

By Gabe Kaminsky

EXCLUSIVE — President Joe Biden‘s move to crown veteran Democratic strategist John Podesta as his lead climate diplomat has prompted an investigation by top Republicans in Congress, who are accusing the White House of sidestepping their authority.

Podesta, a White House adviser on green energy overseeing the implementation of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a massive climate spending law, is set to succeed John Kerry as special climate envoy. But the appointment “appears to be a blatant attempt to sidestep congressional oversight and install Mr. Podesta in a position that under federal law requires the advice and consent of the United States Senate,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), ranking member for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote in a letter Tuesday evening to the president.

“We are alarmed at your apparent decision to circumvent the law,” the lawmakers told Biden. “This appointment is another example of your administration’s practice of creating new offices that do not require Senate confirmation or that do not have explicit statutory missions and constraints. By placing considerable policy authority with these individuals, you demonstrate a flagrant disregard for the separation of powers and congressional authority under both the Constitution and federal law.”

McMorris Rodgers and Capito’s letter comes as Podesta is under the spotlight for reportedly being behind the Biden administration’s pause in January of liquefied natural gas permit approvals, a decision that foreign policy experts warn will likely embolden foreign adversaries, such as Russia. Meanwhile, Podesta’s brother, Washington power-lobbyist Tony Podesta, has long worked on behalf of foreign companies in the LNG space, including Golden Pass, which is co-owned by the state-run QatarEnergy petroleum company in Doha, Qatar, federal lobbying records show.

In the letter, McMorris Rodgers and Capito cited how Biden created Kerry’s unique role as special presidential envoy for climate under the State Department without him having to face Senate confirmation. Kerry’s office has faced scrutiny from watchdog groups for an apparent lack of transparency over not disclosing staff members. Meanwhile, in February, the GOP-led House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into Kerry’s “collusion with leftist environmental groups,” while his office has also been hammered for accepting meetings with groups in China linked to its authoritarian government.

“The lack of clear distinction between the authorities and policy priorities of the State Department and the SPEC Office as the U.S. conducts foreign policy negotiations on environmental and climate issues sows confusion domestically and abroad,” McMorris Rodgers and Capito wrote in the letter. “That muddling of agency roles seems designed to impair congressional oversight as well as accountability to the American public.”