Republicans accuse Biden of trying to ‘circumvent law’ to replace John Kerry

John Kerry stepped down on Wednesday after three years as special presidential envoy for climate

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Thursday 07 March 2024 17:10 GMT
John Kerry reflects on his time as top climate envoy as he steps down from post

Republicans have accused Joe Biden of trying to “circumvent the law” in replacing presidential climate envoy, John Kerry, with White House senior adviser John Podesta.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Shelley Moore Capito, sent a letter to the president this week, saying that his decision violated the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

Under that act, special envoy roles, or positions with similar functions, should be subject to Senate approval, the letter states.

“This 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,” the letter reads.

Mr Kerry stepped down on Wednesday after three years as special presidential envoy for climate, a role which was part of the state department. Mr Biden created the new Cabinet-level position after winning the 2020 election.

Appointing Mr Kerry, a well-known former secretary of state and the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, signalled that America was back in the global climate fight after spending four years in the wilderness under former president Donald Trump. But Mr Biden’s choice also provoked the ire of Republicans and conservative media who goaded Mr Kerry over international trips. They also claimed that he traveled regularly by private jet, an accusation which he called “one of the most outrageously persistent lies that I hear”.

A veteran Democratic operative, Mr Podesta, 75, oversees the $370bn investment in the domestic clean energy sector from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. He will now also be “senior advisor to the president for international climate policy”, a role which is based at the White House.

“Any objective observer would reasonably suspect that you crafted Mr. Podesta’s “new” position to circumvent a recently enacted law so as to duck accountability to Congress and impede or subvert oversight efforts,” wrote the GOP lawmakers.

The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.

Mr Podesta will spend significant time working with the State Department on international climate issues, a White House official said in January.

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