WASHINGTON ― Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised on Tuesday that he would allow a vote on the Green New Deal, the climate and energy proposal advanced by progressives that is meant to address the threat of climate change.
“I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal. And we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate. Give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” McConnell told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
The Green New Deal resolution unveiled last Thursday is a nonbinding measure meant to define the scope of what future legislation requires to make a serious dent in surging greenhouse gas emissions.
The document calls for zeroing out emissions by generating as close to 100 percent of the nation’s electricity as possible from renewables over the next decade, and ramping up manufacturing of clean-energy technologies and electrical vehicles to decarbonize other sectors.
Unlike past efforts to reduce emissions, the Green New Deal takes stock of the fact that climate change uniquely touches on almost every part of the economy and threatens to wildly exacerbate a vast slate of social ills, including disease, poverty and structural racism. The resolution calls for universal health care, a guarantee of high-wage jobs to American workers displaced by the rapid transition away from fossil fuels, and explicit protections for marginalized communities and indigenous tribes.
By sanctioning a vote, McConnell appears to be betting that the resolution will prove too radical for a good number of Democrats, let alone any Republicans.
While a number of Senate Democrats have endorsed the Green New Deal, including some who have declared presidential bids for 2020, others have exercised more caution when asked if they will support the measure.
“There will be all kinds of bills sponsored by individual presidential candidates... I’m not going to take position on every bill that’s coming out,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a possible 2020 contender, said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Tuesday. “I support a green new deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation].”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also didn’t seem too impressed with the Green New Deal resolution last week.
“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” she said.
In December, a poll from Yale and George Mason universities found that 81 percent of registered voters supported the goals of a Green New Deal, including 64 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of conservative Republicans. A narrow majority of voters support raising taxes to fund a Green New Deal, according to a survey released last month by the think tank Data for Progress.
Republicans largely remained silent on the Green New Deal late last year when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and a cadre of left-leaning Democrats began demanding a select committee in the House devoted to the proposal. Last week, a day before the resolution’s release, Republicans in two House committees slammed the idea of a “top-down” approach to reducing emissions, calling the Green New Deal too “radical” for the United States.
When the resolution came out on Thursday, roughly 65 House Democrats co-sponsored it, while fewer than a dozen senators did the same.
But the numbers are growing. On Monday, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), a moderate Democrat from Long Island with a seat on the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means, said he would support the resolution. His status as the vice chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus suggests he could help woo Republican support for the measure.
It’s unclear exactly what kind of measure McConnell plans to bring up for a vote in the Senate. A spokesman for the majority leader told HuffPost on Tuesday that he will not be writing his own legislation to address the threat posed by global warming.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) criticized Republicans on Tuesday for pledging to hold what is essentially a show vote on the Green New Deal, given that they have not advanced any serious efforts to address climate change.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ocasio-Cortez introduced two companion resolutions to bring the Green New Deal to vote last week. Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman also sent reporters a memo in which the congresswoman’s office contradicted the resolution by taking positions on agricultural emissions, nuclear energy and air travel that did not appear in the formal legislation.
Although Markey and Ocasio-Cortez’s office subsequently distanced themselves from the memo, Republicans quickly denounced the resolution as a Trojan horse for more controversial, left-wing proposals that are unlikely to garner the same widespread support those outlined in the resolution might.
“I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights,” President Donald Trump said at a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, referring to the memo.
Some Republicans even accused Democrats of proposing to do away with treats like ice cream by seeking to address bovine flatulence, which last week’s memo highlights as a significant source of greenhouse gases.
“There’s another victim of the Green New Deal, it’s ice cream. Livestock will be banned. Say goodbye to dairy, to beef, to family farms, to ranches. American favorites like cheeseburgers and milkshake will become a thing of the past,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.