Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez drum up support for Green New Deal public housing plan

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez drum up support for Green New Deal public housing plan
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal Gabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump tops list of most tweeted about politicians in 2019 Buttigieg campaign says 2000 people attended Iowa rally Trump keeps Obama immigration program, and Democrats blast him MORE (D-N.Y.) drummed up support for legislation they introduced Thursday to further the Green New Deal and make public housing more eco-friendly.

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez spoke on Capitol Hill in front of a throng of activists from environmental and public housing advocacy groups, touting their bill to retrofit and repair public housing units with the goal of complete decarbonization. 

“Today we are focusing on an issue that is too often neglected, and that is that we are going to be making massive cuts in carbon emissions by retrofitting and rebuilding public housing in this country,” Sanders said to applause.

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“What this legislation is about, and what I’m so proud to say this legislation is about, is that it adopts the tenets of the Green New Deal,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “Public housing is infrastructure, and this is an infrastructure bill. So what we’re going to do in this legislation is to do nothing less than decarbonize the entire public housing stock in the United States of America.” 

Thursday’s bill is just one step in the two lawmakers’ broader push to enact the Green New Deal resolution, which they introduced at the beginning of the year with the overarching goal of getting the U.S. electric grid to run on 100 percent green energy by 2030. 

The legislation introduced by the two progressive firebrands would invest $180 billion over 10 years to revamp America’s public housing, which they say would meet their zero-emissions goal through the use of solar panels and renewable energy sources. 

In addition to taking a bite out of public housing's carbon footprint, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez said their bill would significantly cut federal expenditures on public housing and create new jobs that would be allocated for public housing residents. 

“This bill will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking off of the roads over 1 million cars, it would reduce public housing costs by 30 percent and energy costs in public housing by 70 percent,” Sanders, a top-tier presidential candidate, told the crowd. “This will pay for itself.”

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“Tackling the climate crisis is an economic opportunity for us to create an economic stimulus,” added Ocasio-Cortez. “The last time it was big banks that got a bail out, last time it was Wall Street that got a bail out. This time we’re going to bail out main street.”

Environmental and public housing advocates swarmed Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, saying the legislation was necessary to tackle a bevy of issues, including unsafe public housing units, unresponsive management and poor treatment of tenants.

“We have to shine a light on what is being done,” Lakeesha Taylor, a resident of public housing in New York City, said. “With a Green New Deal, things will change. We are looking towards the future, and things have got to change.”

Democratic lawmakers have underscored the need to pass environmental legislation as a growing activist base demands action on climate change. All major Democratic presidential candidates have in some form voiced support for the Green New Deal resolution, and several have unveiled their own policies to reverse climate change’s impacts.

While observers have speculated that progress on the issue in Washington could slow as the House pursues its impeachment investigation into President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE, Ocasio-Cortez vowed to keep pushing legislation related to the Green New Deal. 

“I’m not concerned about it because we can hold the White House accountable and we can build our future at the same time,” she said. “I absolutely refuse for any day that I’m a member of Congress to not spend that time fighting for our community.”