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 McConnellOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate to vote Thursday to block Trump's Saudi arms deal 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 MarkeyHillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record 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 FeinsteinDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account 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 TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' 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-CortezChuck Todd: Ocasio-Cortez's concentration camp remarks do border detainees 'tremendous disservice' Chuck Todd: Ocasio-Cortez's concentration camp remarks do border detainees 'tremendous disservice' GOP hopes dim on reclaiming House 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 DurbinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Kushner meeting with senators to craft asylum deal MORE (Ill.).

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

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCritics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony Critics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments 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) TesterVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides VA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments 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 hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Biden defends remarks about segregationist senators: 'Apologize for what?' MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll Democrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll Biden defends remarks about segregationist senators: 'Apologize for what?' MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record 'We fight on': 2020 Democrats mark Juneteenth MORE (D-N.Y.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Democrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Warren: 'On Juneteenth and every day: Black lives matter' 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 GarlandBernie Sanders hits McConnell for saying DC, Puerto Rico statehood is 'full-bore socialism' Bernie Sanders hits McConnell for saying DC, Puerto Rico statehood is 'full-bore socialism' Democrats should initiate a 'Fire Mitch McConnell' campaign 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 BarrassoBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate confirms Trump judicial nominee criticized for being hostile to LGBT community Senate confirms Trump judicial nominee criticized for being hostile to LGBT community Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills 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 ScaliseHouse Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill House Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account MORE (La.) and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzAddressing climate change is a win for Republicans — why not embrace it? Ex-GOP lawmaker hits Kyle Kashuv's racist posts: 'These are the social media postings we see of a shooter' Ex-GOP lawmaker hits Kyle Kashuv's racist posts: 'These are the social media postings we see of a shooter' MORE (Fla.) each are reportedly working on their own Green New Deal alternative. In the Senate, Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney jokes about his multiple houses while arguing against tying lawmaker pay to budget Romney jokes about his multiple houses while arguing against tying lawmaker pay to budget Republicans more interested in a primary challenge to Trump than Democrats were for Obama in 2012 MORE (R-Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSecond ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (R-S.C.) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' 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.”