Energy & Environment

Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal

Democrats are facing a defining Senate vote as early as next week on the “Green New Deal” climate change plan — which Republicans hope will bolster their argument that the party is too far left for the country.

It’s unclear how many Democrats will ultimately back the progressive-pushed resolution, which aims to get the U.S. running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, but it’s certain to divide the party.

Asked if he’d vote for the resolution, a chuckling Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Hill before the Presidents Day recess: “Probably not.”

{mosads}Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another centrist in the Democratic caucus, characterized the plan in an interview with CNN last week as a “dream,” suggesting he’d vote against it.

“I’ll vote on the motion to proceed and then we’ll see after that,” Manchin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, told The Hill.

While Manchin and Tester are both centrists from states President Trump won in 2016, even some liberal Democrats are admitting they’re having a hard time getting behind the Green New Deal.

Senate Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, called the plan a “resolution aspiration,” during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday.

“He said he wasn’t sure how he’d vote, adding that he had asked Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the resolution in the Senate, “What in the heck is this?”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told the Hill last week that he was prepared to vote “yes” on the bill himself. But when asked about whether it will be hard for others in his party to get on board, he responded, “Every senator can speak for themselves on that.”

The far-reaching climate plan was largely conceptualized by progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who introduced the resolution in the House in early February.

The plan’s main goals include a push toward renewable energy that supporters say would jump-start thousands of new jobs.

Some of its aims though, have generated criticism for being too far-reaching and not focused enough on issues directly tied to reducing carbon emissions. For example, measures in the resolution include goals to expand family farming and the availability of clean water. The resolution received the most notoriety after drafts were circulated of a Q&A for the plan, written by Ocasio-Cortez’s office, that included talking points on getting rid of “emissions from cows” and all airplane travel.

“It is difficult to support the resolution right now when one of the lead sponsors says one of the intentions is to make air travel unnecessary,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, said in a statement in early February.

The premise of the Green New Deal has split Democrats from the start.

The Green New Deal last fall started as a blueprint for Ocasio-Cortez’s sought-after select committee on climate change. More than 45 lawmakers supported the creation of the committee to draft a Green New Deal plan, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) instead decided to create a different committee, the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, headed by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is now fast-tracking a vote on the resolution in hopes that it will divide Democrats and unite his own party. A vote can happen as early as next week.

“I’m looking forward to voting against the Green New Deal because it’s just so bad for the economy and we’ll have an opportunity for the Democrats to see if they want to rubber stamp this lurch to the left, this hard left turn that their party seems to be taking right now,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces a tough reelection race next year, equated the plan to socialism.

“This idea is about socialism. That’s what this is. Look at it. Read it,” Gardner said. “And it’s important that we tell the American people what it is.”

By pushing the vote through, Republicans are also aiming to lock down the positions of Democrats running for president in 2020.

“[It’s important] to get people on record as to how much they really want to take this country in a hard left direction,” Barrasso said.

Democratic hopefuls Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have voiced their support for the Green New Deal and co-sponsored the resolution.

Others have remained on the fence, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a potential candidate who hasn’t officially joined the presidential race. He resisted calls to endorse Ocasio-Cortez’s specific plan, saying he instead supports “a green new deal.”

“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. I support a green new deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation]. That’s my answer,” he told reporters at a breakfast last week.

Democratic leaders however say they too are planning to gain from the vote.

Speaking on the Senate floor last week, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) derided McConnell’s decision to force a vote on the issue, saying, “Bring it on.”

“You think it might embarrass Democrats to vote on a nonbinding resolution that some of us may support but not others?” Schumer asked. “Trust me, we’ll be fine, because the American people know that our entire party believes that climate change is happening and it’s caused by humans.”

Durbin said Democrats will be looking at the vote as an opportunity to get Republicans on record about their plans to fight the looming threat of climate change.

“What we’re going to do is ask the Republican leader, ‘What’s your position on global warming, while we’re at it?’” Durbin said Wednesday. “’Shouldn’t you come out on the record and tell us whether you believe man-made activity is having an impact on our environment?’ Let’s get on the record on both sides.”

Timothy Cama contributed.

This story has been updated.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Cory Booker Cory Gardner Dick Durbin Donald Trump Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Green New Deal Jeff Merkley Joe Manchin John Barrasso Jon Tester Kathy Castor Kirsten Gillibrand Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Rick Larsen Sherrod Brown

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