WASHINGTON — The Senate will vote on the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan by Democrats to combat climate change and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. The plan calls for a New Deal-style mobilization to shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
McConnell and other Republicans oppose the plan but are hoping to force Senate Democrats — including a crowd of 2020 presidential candidates — to embrace or publicly disavow a proposal Republicans say would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase.
The upcoming vote — which has not yet been scheduled — will “give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” McConnell said.
Seeing a political opening, Republicans have begun to portray the plan as a Democratic turn toward “socialism,” a theme President Donald Trump touched on in his State of the Union address.
Trump slammed the Green New Deal at a rally Monday in El Paso, Texas, saying it would “shut down American energy.” The proposal championed by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York sounds like “a high-school term paper that got a low mark,” he said.
Trump has frequently expressed doubt about climate change and said he does not believe action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. His administration has focused on U.S. “energy dominance” and increased production of oil, gas and coal on federal and private land.
The climate measure is already supported by at least five senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s likely to enter the Democratic primary soon, is also a supporter.
The forthcoming vote isn’t the first time Senate Republicans have tried to force Democratic presidential hopefuls to go on the record about a liberal proposal. The GOP-controlled Senate scheduled a symbolic vote on single-payer health care legislation in 2017, a decision also designed to put prominent liberals on the spot. In January, GOP leaders brought up foreign policy legislation that took on the boycott movement against Israel.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said the Green New Deal represents “a very hard left turn” by Democrats in advance of the 2020 elections.
“To me this is just so extreme,” Barrasso said, calling the plan “a big-government takeover of the economy masked as an environmental policy.”
The Green New Deal, also spearheaded by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, calls for dramatic steps to virtually eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The nonbinding resolution sets a goal to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” including nuclear power.
The plan goes far beyond energy to urge national health care coverage and job guarantees, as well as high-quality education, affordable housing and a high-speed rail network. The ambitious proposal met a reality check Tuesday as California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he’s abandoning a plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a project with an estimated cost that has ballooned to $77 billion.
The Green New Deal also calls for upgrading all existing buildings in the United States to be energy-efficient.
“This is now a voting issue across the country,” Markey said last week. “The green generation has risen up and they are saying they want this issue solved.”
Problems in the Democratic rollout of the Green New Deal have further fueled the Republican attacks.
Trump, at his rally Monday night, said that under the Green New Deal, “You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.” He added that the plan would “shut down American energy” and “a little thing called air travel.”
The resolution submitted to the House and Senate makes no mention of cows or air travel. But Trump’s comments apparently referred to a fact sheet of “Frequently Asked Questions” distributed by Ocasio-Cortez’s office prior to a news conference last week. Ocasio-Cortez has subsequently disavowed the fact sheet, which has been deleted from her website.
The earlier version of the fact sheet described measures far beyond those contained in the actual plan, such as “Build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” And it made the impolitic statement, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said the quip about cows and airplanes was meant to be ironic, but Trump and other Republicans seized on it as an example of the plan’s excesses.
“Along with abolishing farting cows, beefing up high-speed rail so that airplanes can be banned is a key element in the proposal,” the National Republican Congressional Committee said in an email Tuesday attacking Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., a Green New Deal supporter.
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