GOP Lawmakers Demand Answers on John Kerry’s Role in Biden Administration

Democratic presidential candidate former U.S. Vice president Joe Biden (L) campaigns with former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (R) December 6, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Kerry announced his endorsement of Biden yesterday with the Iowa caucuses less than two months away. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), ranking member on the Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. James Comer (R-KY), ranking member on the Committee on Oversight and Reform, are demanding details on John Kerry’s unclear role as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, particularly expressing concern on “where the role appears to intersect with the U.S. response to a hostile foreign regime such as the Chinese Communist Party.”

The GOP lawmakers observed that Kerry’s cabinet-level position, “which includes a place on the National Security Council, appears to have an outsized role within the Biden Administration.”

“It appears that in your role, you have some ability to set foreign policy and to bind the United States to international agreements, despite not being confirmed with advice and consent of the Senate,” they wrote, expressing concern on how he may handle the nation’s relationship with China.

The two lawmakers continued, noting that Biden selected him to serve in the new position partially due to his status as one of Biden’s “closest friends.”

“Your position is apparently distinct from Gina McCarthy’s role as National Climate Advisor —another unconfirmed position that President Biden says ‘run[s] everything,'” they wrote, adding that the scope of Kerry’s duties, as well as his role it plays into the National Security Council, remains “unclear.”

They continued:

Nevertheless, you appear to be negotiating on behalf of the United States with foreign governments, including the PRC. The Trump Administration made significant strides toward commitments with the PRC to emissions reductions without sacrificing economic prosperity.  Yet, the Biden Administration appears poised to make further commitments without regard to economic repercussions, and without a reciprocal agreement from the PRC, the world’s largest polluter.

The Biden Administration recently released a joint statement with the PRC, which conveniently fails to bind the PRC to anything in terms of concrete and measurable steps it must take to remedy its environmental degradation. The Biden Administration has set a 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target of 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels, which will greatly impact the economy of the United States, while it is not clear that the PRC is even attempting to follow suit.

It is of paramount importance that we conduct oversight over your position as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and how the position will impact the interests of the United States, especially where the role appears to intersect with the U.S. response to a hostile foreign regime such as the Chinese Communist Party. To date, the White House has failed to provide any information about your security clearance, which Committee Republicans requested on May 4, 2021.12 This lack of transparency appears to be a pattern of avoiding Congressional oversight while Democrats maintain majorities in the House and Senate.

“The American people deserve to understand your role in the government and what authority you have to negotiate with foreign adversaries,” they continued.

As part of the request, the lawmakers asked for all documents and communication regarding the “nature and scope of the role of the Special Presidential envoy for the Climate,” a “detailed explanation of the scope of the role played” in that position, including the authorities exercised and an explanation as to why the incumbent would sit on the National Security Council, a  “detailed explanation of why the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate would have a need to know classified national security information and maintain a security clearance,” and “documents and communications from January 20, 2021, to the present regarding negotiations between the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and PRC officials.”

They set a deadline of June 28, 2021.

Kerry has since dismissed the U.S.’s fundamental differences, in terms of human rights, with China, contending the countries should still work together to tackle climate-related issues.

He praised China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua as someone who “cares about this issue” and touted the confidence he believes Chinese leadership, including Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, has in him.

“And I think if you talk to anybody who has been part of the conferences of the United Nations over the years, they will express their respect for Xie Zhenhua,” Kerry told Foreign Policy:

We have other differences on human rights, geostrategic interests, but those differences do not have to get in the way of something that is as critical as dealing with climate. And China made that decision. When I was in China the other day, we negotiated back and forth in good faith. We didn’t have to insult each other or shout at each other. We had a serious, tough conversation, but we managed to find a place and a way to be able to agree and move forward.

Last week, while speaking to U.S. troops in the United Kingdom, President Biden identified global warming as the “greatest threat” facing the nation. Notably, in 2014, Kerry said people could consider climate change “the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Despite the dire warnings, Kerry has a history of utilizing private jets. In 2019, for example, he took a private jet to Iceland to accept an environmental award, defending the decision as “the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle.”

Financial disclosures also revealed that Kerry invested in oil companies prior to accepting his newly-created position in Biden’s administration.

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