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McConnell says Senate will vote on ‘Green New Deal’ as he seeks to portray Democrats as radical

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listens during a news conference following a weekly policy luncheon Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listens during a news conference following a weekly policy luncheon Tuesday on Capitol Hill. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he will schedule a vote on the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate and economic plan spearheaded by first-year Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as he tries to portray Democrats as radical ahead of the 2020 election.

The legislation stands little chance of passing the Republican-controlled chamber. But by bringing the measure up for a vote, McConnell will force Democrats to take a position on a plan that is increasingly a target of attacks by President Trump and other Republicans.

“I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. “And we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate. We’ll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

Conservative rhetoric amped up over the Green New Deal in recent days after Ocasio-Cortez’s office released an FAQ sheet that contained erroneous information. She has since retracted the sheet, but not before questions were raised to Democrats over the statement.

McConnell has previously said he would not bring to the Senate floor “any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature.” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Tuesday that those comments were only about legislation aimed at ending the recent government shutdown.

At a rally Monday night in El Paso, Trump mocked the Green New Deal, saying, “It sounds like a high school term paper that got a low mark.”

“I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’ of you’re not allowed to own cows anymore,” Trump told the crowd.

That echoed Trump’s claim in a tweet last week that the plan would “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military.”

If enacted, the Green New Deal would affect those industries but would not “permanently eliminate” them, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, which analyzed what’s actually in the proposal.

Some Democrats on Tuesday responded by defending the Green New Deal. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored the resolution in the Senate, said the proposal’s principles “resonate with the American people — a mission to save all of creation by investing in massive job creation.”

“Republicans don’t want to debate climate change, they only want to deny it,” Markey said in a statement. “They have offered no plan to address this economic and national security threat and want to sabotage any effort that makes Big Oil and corporate polluters pay.”

Most of the Senate Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination have publicly supported the Green New Deal. But Democrats facing competitive reelection battles could find themselves vulnerable to Republican attacks on the issue — although voting “present” to avoid having to take a position on the matter is one potential strategy.