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At the Sanders Institute Gathering, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard discusses what the new young progressives bring to the fights in Congress and the Green New Deal

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Burlington, Vermont today. We are at the Sanders Institute Gathering, where so many great politicians, activists, academics are gathered here in order to tackle the critical issues of our times. We are now being joined by Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii. Thank you so much-


SHARMINI PERIES: For joining us. Aloha.

TULSI GABBARD: Nice to see you.

SHARMINI PERIES: Tell us about what some of the key challenges are that you’re going to be tackling in the coming year.

TULSI GABBARD: Well first of all, it is … It’s been great over the last few days to welcome a lot of these new members of Congress to Washington. They’ve been going through their own orientations, but we’ve been having time to spend with them as individuals and as groups. Actually, just yesterday we got a little inkling of what’s to come when there were probably three or four of us who are already members of Congress and about five or six of the newly elected members of Congress who will be joining us and being sworn in in January gathering with some amazing young leaders from the Sunrise Movement to talk about a green economy, to talk about protecting our environment, the importance of clean air and clean water, and how we really need to focus our attention on investing in this green and sustainable future for us.

SHARMINI PERIES: Are you talking about the New Green Deal?

TULSI GABBARD: The Green New Deal is the … I guess at the forefront of what the Sunrise Movement is pushing through. Again, young leaders from across the country who are taking ownership for their future, as well as some of the other pieces of legislation that we already have introduced and that this Select Committee will continue to work on building forward; to actually have an actionable plan.

SHARMINI PERIES: What are the components of the New Green Deal that you think could have life?

TULSI GABBARD: When you create this Select Committee, you really start looking at taking a comprehensive approach through legislation on how we get our country off of its addiction to fossil fuels and invest in the kinds of infrastructure, jobs, and economy that we need to build this … An economy that’s based on green and clean renewable energy. I’ve introduced legislation last year called the Off Fossil Fuels Act, working with incredible environmental organizations like Food and Water Watch. We have now I think close to 400 environmental nonprofits from across the country who are supporting that legislation.

That’s one element of what they’re talking about when they’re talking about a Green New Deal, is building this pathway for a bright future, for a clean future, a sustainable and livable future. Not just for our generation, but really looking down the line for generations to come and placing this at the forefront as a priority. That’s something that we talked about earlier today here at the Sanders Gathering, is understanding that clean air and clean water is the most basic and fundamental right that we have as people, and we have to make sure that the leaders of our country are forming and enacting policies that not only respect and understand that, but really putting it at the forefront.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. You’re going to get incredible pushback from the Trump administration, as you have been. I mean, he’s rolled back so many of the very little Obama was able to advance in terms of climate crisis we’re dealing with and trying to tackle it. How do you plan to, I guess, push through some of these very good policies that the Green New Deal is talking about?

TULSI GABBARD: Well, I think it’s first important to understand that, yes, we have to fight back against these attempts, some successful, some not, to take away very basic but very important environmental protections that are in place really to protect us and our families and our communities. That’s kind of the immediate, right, with the situation that we have. But it’s important as we look at how to make this very systemic change that we address the systemic problem, as well. I can tell you the systemic problem in Washington is the influence of big fossil fuel money in Washington, and how long that has existed. It’s something that exists not just because of Trump. It’s been around long before that, and it effects Democrats and Republicans.

I think it is … It should be inspiring. And I draw hope from the fact that there are more and more people getting involved and getting engaged in this as not a Democrat or Republican issue, but an issue that impacts all of us regardless of party, regardless of what state we come from, regardless of our race, ethnicity, whether you’re wealthy or you’re poor. Having access to be able to breathe clean air, so that when your children are born they can take a breath of clean air, and make sure that we have clean water, make sure that we have a safe and livable home, these are the things that are common interests for every single person. If we are starting that conversation there, yes, with leaders in Washington, but with people across the country who are making decisions about who they’re voting for and what kinds of policies they’re pushing for, then we have real opportunity to make this kind of big change that needs to happen.

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Tulsi Gabbard is the United States Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. She was also a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee until February 28, 2016, when she resigned to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary.