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 McConnellMcConnell to try to pass small business funds Thursday, warns against holding it 'hostage' Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans 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 MarkeyFive things to watch as Wuhan emerges from coronavirus lockdown Hillicon Valley: Google bans Zoom from its work computers | Dem cautions White House against using surveillance to fight virus | Lawmakers push House leaders on remote voting Senate Democrat presses White House on reported coronavirus surveillance system efforts 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 FeinsteinSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus COVID-19 and the coming corruption pandemic 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 TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos 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-CortezIlhan Omar edits headline of New York Post article slamming the Squad: 'There, fixed it for you' Trump urges Sanders supporters to join GOP after senator suspends campaign What the coronavirus reveals about the race grievance industry 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: Bringing senators back in two weeks would be 'dangerous and risky' How the Senate should implement remote voting in emergencies Hillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation MORE (Ill.).

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

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCoronavirus watch: Southern states begin to see rise in cases Democratic senators call for funding for local media in coronavirus stimulus Politicians mourn the death of Bill Withers 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) TesterSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Trump selects White House lawyer for coronavirus inspector general Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill 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 BookerFormer Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report Michael Bennet endorses Biden for president Democrats salivate over Obama coming off sidelines MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOn The Money: Mnuchin, Schumer in talks to strike short-term relief deal | Small businesses struggling for loans | Treasury IG sends Dems report on handling of Trump tax returns Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report Michael Bennet endorses Biden for president MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandFormer Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report States battle each other for equipment in supply chain crunch The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight MORE (D-N.Y.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFormer Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report Sanders exit leaves deep disappointment on left Michael Bennet endorses Biden for president MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump says Obama knows 'something that you don't know' about Biden The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders exits, clearing Biden's path to nomination Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Mnuchin, Schumer in talks to strike short-term relief deal | Small businesses struggling for loans | Treasury IG sends Dems report on handling of Trump tax returns Trump says Obama knows 'something that you don't know' about Biden Senators push for changes to small business aid 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 GarlandDC wine bar loses appeal in lawsuit against Trump hotel Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate The Trumpification of the federal courts 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: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Lobbying world MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHouse Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting Democratic senators call for funding for local media in coronavirus stimulus 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 ScaliseOvernight Energy: Trump reportedly opposes royalty cuts for oil, gas companies | House GOP presses Saudis to ease oil production | Exxon Mobil cuts budget amid industry slump House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump House GOP leaders back effort to boost small-business loans MORE (La.) and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) Gaetz2020 on my mind: Democrats have to think like Mitch McConnell Harris knocks Gaetz for taking issue with money for Howard in relief package Critics hit Florida governor over lack of 'sweeping' coronavirus response MORE (Fla.) each are reportedly working on their own Green New Deal alternative. In the Senate, Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' MORE (R-Utah), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump attacks WHO amid criticism of his coronavirus response Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill UN biodiversity chief calls for international ban of 'wet markets' MORE (R-S.C.) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday 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.”