WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.-05), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee, wrote to President Biden regarding his plan to flout Senate confirmation requirements in replacing outgoing “climate czar” John Kerry with John Podesta.

“Reports indicate John Podesta, who currently serves as a senior advisor to the President, will replace him as your primary envoy for international climate policy. However, in replacing Mr. Kerry, Mr. Podesta will serve under the title of Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy. 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. We are alarmed at your apparent decision to circumvent the law,” Capito and McMorris Rodgers wrote to 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,” they continued.

Read the full letter here.

  • At the start of his tenure, President Biden created the new Cabinet-level position of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) for John Kerry.
  • This position was not subject to the constitutional advice and consent role of the Senate, allowing him to avoid the Senate confirmation process, any transparency or disclosure requirements, and congressional oversight.

  • In response to these concerns, in 2021, Congress passed and the president signed into law legislation requiring that any “Special Envoy” or other position performing a similar function be subject to confirmation with the advice and consent of the Senate.

  • Congress intended that Mr. Kerry’s successor be covered by the statutory requirement.

  • As Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy, Mr. Podesta appears to be assuming all of Mr. Kerry’s duties to act as an envoy for climate on the president’s behalf and to represent the interests of the United States in international policy negotiations.

  • There appears to be no distinction between this new title and the role of the SPEC.

  • Given the visibility and authority of this position and its similarity to the SPEC Office, any candidate for this position, including Mr. Podesta, should clearly be required to receive Senate confirmation.

  • The mere fact that Mr. Podesta will receive a different title and will be based in the White House, rather than the Department of State like his predecessor, does not obviate this statutory obligation.

# # #