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 McConnellSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 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 MarkeyTlaib rallies in support of Green New Deal at Detroit town hall Ben & Jerry's backs Green New Deal: 'We have to act now' Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 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 FeinsteinDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions Five takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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 TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference 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-CortezMichael Steele: A missed opportunity at holding banks accountable House Dem dismisses impeachment push: 'I'd rather defeat' Trump at ballot box Tlaib rallies in support of Green New Deal at Detroit town hall 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 DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal MORE (Ill.).

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

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOn The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections 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) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology 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 BookerCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' Tulsi Gabbard fundraises off 4/20: 'Appalls me' that feds consider marijuana illegal MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions MORE (D-N.Y.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBooker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions 2020 Democrats commemorate 20-year anniversary of Columbine shooting MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Wage growth shaping up as key 2020 factor for Trump Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTim Ryan doesn't back impeachment proceedings against Trump Schiff: Democrats 'may' take up impeachment proceedings Trump claims Democrats' plans to probe admin will cost them 'big time' in 2020 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 GarlandThe Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Hatch warns 'dangerous' idea of court packing could hurt religious liberty 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 BarrassoOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference 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 Scalise20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure This week: Democrats revive net neutrality fight MORE (La.) and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTrump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Rep. Gaetz to Cher: 'I got you, babe' Gaetz introduces 'PENCIL' resolution to oust Schiff from House Intel MORE (Fla.) each are reportedly working on their own Green New Deal alternative. In the Senate, Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGiuliani: 'Nothing wrong' with campaign taking information from Russians Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller MORE (R-Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars DOJ: Dem subpoena for Mueller report is 'premature and unnecessary' Dems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions MORE (R-S.C.) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar Alexander Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Five things to know about the measles outbreak 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.”