Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote

The Senate will vote as soon as Tuesday on a motion to proceed on the Green New Deal, a broad climate change bill that has divided Democrats, and which Republicans hope to use as a wedge issue in 2020.

Democrats are broadly expected to vote present on the legislation as a way of deflecting a political attack from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment CNN's Cuomo promotes 'Dirty Donald' hashtag, hits GOP for 'loyalty oath' to Trump MORE (R-Ky.), who scheduled the vote to put the minority in a difficult position.

They have sought to cast the scheduling of the vote as a political trick.

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“This vote is a sham and little more than a political ploy to protect vulnerable Republicans from having to defend their climate science denial,” said Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyUS must act as journalists continue to be jailed in record numbers Warren proposes 'Blue New Deal' to protect oceans There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Mass.).

Even though he is the Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal legislation, he will vote present on the legislation.

Groups supporting the Green New Deal are essentially giving members a free pass to not vote in favor of the measure.

A representative of the Sunrise Movement, the youth climate action group that went viral earlier this year through a confrontation in Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE’s (D-Calif.) office over the Green New Deal, said they aren’t pushing for a vote in the House — where Democrats have the majority.

Stephen O’Hanlon, communications director for the group, said it is pushing for members to sponsor the legislation but sees votes as pointless while President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE is in the White House.

“We aren’t calling for a vote in the House,” he said. “The point isn’t to pass the resolution, it’s a conversation starter. We don’t have any illusion that we are going to pass comprehensive climate legislation through Donald Trump.”

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez to hold campaign rallies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas Overwhelming majority say social media companies have too much influence: poll MORE (D-N.Y.), the high-profile House sponsor of the Green New Deal, is likewise giving Senate Democrats a pass.

“The GOP’s whole game of wasting votes in Congress to target others ‘on the record,’ for [legislation] they have no intent to pass, is a disgrace,” she tweeted over the weekend. “Stop wasting the American peoples’ time [and] learn to govern. Our jobs aren’t for campaigning, & that’s exactly what these bluff-votes are for.”

At the same time, if McConnell’s gambit was to divide Democrats, there are some signs it could be working.

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Senate Democratic leaders say they aren’t entirely sure how everyone in the caucus will vote.

“I don’t know the latest whip count, but the overwhelming majority will probably vote present,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Lawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Senators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report MORE (Ill.).

Asked if any Democrats might vote for the resolution, Durbin said, “That I don’t know.”

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (D-W.Va.) has already indicated that he plans to vote against the legislation. The plans of others, such as Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? GOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate MORE (D-Mont.), remain up in the air.

It’s also at least possible that some Senate Democrats running for the White House will break ranks to earn some attention and stand out from the crowd.

Six White House hopefuls have co-sponsored the resolution: Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Booker cancels NH activities, campaign says he has the flu MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Sanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAdvocacy groups decry Trump's 'anti-family policies' ahead of White House summit This bipartisan plan is the most progressive approach to paid parental leave Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' MORE (D-N.Y.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBooker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders 'outraged' after MLB threatens to cut ties with minor league teams Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (D-Mass.).

Spokespeople for those candidates either declined to say how their bosses would vote or didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Democratic polling shows the Green New Deal has strong support from likely Democratic voters in early primary and caucus states.

Polling from Lake Research Partners, a Democratic firm, shows that 76 percent of likely Democratic primary voters and caucus participants surveyed in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada view the Green New Deal favorably. Forty-seven percent of likely Democratic voters polled in those states have a strongly favorable view.

Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who advised Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, said presidential candidates might feel some pressure to vote in favor of the resolution, as lawmakers are usually expected to vote for legislation they co-sponsor.

But he said Democrats can defend not voting for the resolution by explaining it’s a political trap being laid by the GOP. That argument is helped by the fact that McConnell is detested by the Democratic base for famously refusing to give former President Obama’s third Supreme Court nominee, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandAppeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records Divisive docket to test Supreme Court ahead of 2020 Majority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll MORE, a hearing or a floor vote.

Devine said it’s “wise” for Democratic leadership to urge their caucus members to vote present so as “not to be pulled into some kind of political fight where Republicans can take whatever is done and distort it and use it for their own political purposes.”

Republican leaders are doing everything they can to seize the advantage in the unusual vote.

“It looks like Democrats are trying to duck, dodge and distance themselves from a vote on their own Green New Deal.  Every Democrat Senator running for President supported it. Now when given the chance to actually go on the record, Democrats are desperate to avoid it,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLife after Yucca Mountain: The time has come to reset US nuclear waste policy Trump announces restart to Taliban peace talks in surprise Afghanistan visit Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (N.Y.) slammed Republicans over the “gotcha” vote on climate change, noting it will come the same week the Senate hopes to pass a relief package for parts of the Midwest ravaged by severe storms, which Democrats suspect may be linked to global warming.

“I wonder what the people of Nebraska and Iowa think [about why] they’ve gotten these huge floods so devastating to them? So it’s long past time for Republicans to take this issue seriously,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

A top Senate Democratic aide said party leadership plans to use Republicans’ votes against them to highlight their inaction on the issue.

“We’ll pounce on it as a flipped script and will use it to show that, in the run-up to 2020, if you want to vote for someone who stands up for climate change, you know who is standing in the way.”

In a sign that pressure in recent weeks may be building on Republicans to do more than attack Democrats on the issue, a handful of Republicans in both the Senate and the House have indicated that they might soon try to tackle the issue of climate change through their own legislation.

In the House, Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseGOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers Fox's Chris Wallace calls out Trump for the 'most sustained assault on freedom of the press' in US history McCarthy: I don't think there's a need to whip the impeachment vote MORE (La.) and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Judiciary Democrats approve articles of impeachment setting up House vote next week Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes MORE (Fla.) each are reportedly working on their own Green New Deal alternative. In the Senate, Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyIs a trap being set for Trump in the Senate trial? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (R-Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip MORE (R-S.C.) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Turf war derails push on surprise medical bills | Bill would tax e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaign | .5M ad blitz backs vulnerable Dems on drug prices Turf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Tenn.) told The Hill they are all looking into introducing a federal program to incentivize business investment in carbon technologies.

Alexander, who is retiring, declared on the Senate floor Monday: “I believe that human emissions are a major cause of climate change.”

He called for a five-year project on the scale of the nation’s effort to develop the first atomic bomb to “use American research and technology to put our country and our world firmly on the path toward cleaner, cheaper energy.”