POLITICS

Green New Deal Activists Shift Focus To Vulnerable Republicans Ahead Of Senate Vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed this week to hold a vote on the Green New Deal.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is among the vulnerable lawmakers Sunrise Movement activists hope to pressure into supporting a
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is among the vulnerable lawmakers Sunrise Movement activists hope to pressure into supporting a Green New Deal.

Last November, young activists wielding yellow signs calling for dramatic climate action and clean-energy jobs occupied Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office, demanding top Democrats champion a Green New Deal.

Now it’s Republicans’ turn.

On Wednesday, activists with the Sunrise Movement, the left-wing group whose protests propelled the Green New Deal into the national debate, are set to announce plans to start targeting Senate Republicans facing tough 2020 re-election bids in swing states, including Susan Collins (Maine), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.), HuffPost has learned. 

Spokespeople for the senators did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Other likely targets include Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The move comes a day after McConnell, in an apparent bid to upend the Green New Deal’s growing momentum, promised to hold a vote in the Senate on what’s expected to be the landmark joint resolution Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unveiled last week alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Mitch McConnell is going to regret this sorry attempt to stop the Green New Deal,” said Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement’s executive director. “He is so out of touch with regular people and so in the pocket of his fossil fuel billionaire campaign donors that he thinks bringing the Green New Deal for a vote will be a political win for him and his fossil fuel billionaire cronies.”

The group held a call at 8 p.m. Wednesday to rally its army of thous of volunteers.

Sunrise Movement isn’t turning the heat down on Democrats, whom it sees as the primary vessels for pushing a patchwork of legislation to fulfill the goals outlined in the resolution, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 election. On Wednesday, the group rallied more than 80 protesters outside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s New York office, calling on the Democrat to support the resolution. 

But unlike health care, taxes and other policies with clear ideological battle lines, Republicans ― no longer able to deny the science behind climate change outright as a large majority of Americans understand its realities ― are struggling to articulate an alternative vision of how to prepare for an increasingly frightening, hot future. In the Sunrise Movement’s view, the Green New Deal’s momentum will take more cynical political ploys.

It’s unclear when McConnell will schedule the vote, but it could come as early as next month. 

The Senate leader’s announcement followed days of Republican attacks on the Green New Deal that ranged from traditional critiques of a big-government policy approach to wild-eyed tirades filled with blatant misinformation about the resolution itself.

Sunrise Movement activists staged protests in November in then-incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. 
Sunrise Movement activists staged protests in November in then-incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. 

Markey and Ocasio-Cortez released a sweeping resolution last Thursday staking out the core tenets of a policy that aims to keep global warming from reaching cataclysmic levels, prepare the nation’s infrastructure for the climate change already occurring and expand the social safety net for communities plagued by existing pollution. The measure calls for generating as close to 100 percent of the United States’ electricity as possible from renewables over the next decade and ramping up manufacturing of clean-energy technologies, electric vehicles and public transit.

Republicans began attacking the policy before the resolution even came out.

Last Wednesday, the day before the resolution’s release, House Republicans referred to the general concept of a Green New Deal as a “wealth transfer scheme” and a “radical policy.”

On Thursday night, Fox News pundit Sean Hannity launched into a furious, minutes-long rant in which he called the Green New Deal “a real, serious threat to our way of life” and a “dangerous idea” without once describing the actual proposal. By Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted that a Green New Deal would “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military.”

Mitch McConnell is going to regret this sorry attempt to stop the Green New Deal. Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement executive director

Partially fueling the attacks is a memo Ocasio-Cortez’s office released last week with the resolution. The memo, described as an FAQ, contradicted the resolution by taking positions on nuclear energy, agricultural emissions and carbon-capture technology that didn’t appear in the official legislation. 

By sanctioning a vote, McConnell appears to be betting the mudslinging will make the resolution too radioactive to pass with a majority of Democrats, let alone any Republicans.

The policy polls strongly with voters. In December, 81 percent of registered voters supported the goals of the Green New Deal, including 64 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of conservative Republicans, according to a poll from Yale and George Mason universities. A narrow majority of voters supported raising taxes to fund a Green New Deal, a survey released last month by the think tank Data for Progress found.

“The American people want climate action and a strong economy for all,” Prakash said. “Mitch McConnell has no plan for either. The Green New Deal is a plan for both, and he knows that if it continues to catch fire, it will threaten everything he represents.”

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